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The Television Structure


In television, we talk about acts and act breaks in a slightly different way.

The script’s “acts” are defined by the number and location of commercial breaks, not because the three-act structure does not apply. which mostly depends on which network the show is on. Most half-hour television shows used to have a commercial break halfway through the episode until about a decade ago.

Therefore, shows would be divided into two acts.

The Cheers pilot follows this structure, so the first act would not conclude with the dramatic first act’s conclusion but rather with the midpoint. When I worked on a Nickelodeon show, this act structure was also followed.

However, I believe that is due to the law requiring fewer commercials on children’s television.

My most recent employment involved writing for a Netflix show with no commercial breaks.

Because of this, we decided to divide the scripts into three acts for our own and production purposes. I’ll get
into how to separate that in the content stage part of this series.

When I write a sample pilot, I break it up into three acts and use the standard dramatic three-act structure for the breaks. I also use a short one-page tag at the end and a cold opening at the beginning.

I would suggest breaking up your pilot into three acts because that’s what the majority of shows do now and is the simplest way to do it.

It’s up to you whether you use a tag or a cold opening, but most shows today use cold openings. Additionally, Fox shows probably have four acts.

Therefore, if you are writing a spec script for a different show, examine how many commercial breaks it contains and where they fall, and make any necessary adjustments.

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