I need to settle an argument! I want to know if there is a TV series which 1) was completely written before filming started, and 2) was "short" - 1-2 seasons or something.

Note that I am interested in things which were written solely for television; so adaptations of Shakespeare or Dickens would not apply. The argument is actually about the attitude of network executives, who might not be interested in running something which wouldn't have the potential to last forever - regardless of the quality of the show under consideration.

I think a TV series which was totally written after the pilot or something might be ok too.

Anyone have an example?

  • 1
    TV Tropes - British Brevity: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BritishBrevity
    – Tom77
    Jun 20, 2013 at 14:47
  • Yeah this is exactly what I thought of first, but I needed a show that was completely written before filming, and I don't know enough about British TV to come up with one.
    – levitopher
    Jun 20, 2013 at 22:10
  • If reports are to be believed, there are 50 finished scripts for the unmade Star Wars TV show (Underworld) sitting on a shelf somewhere.
    – Nobby
    Oct 26, 2013 at 3:14
  • @levitopher basically all of them, discounting pilots that may have been aired as part of the series. There's a myriad of shows that had one series of 5-7 episodes and that was it.
    – OrangeDog
    Mar 9, 2018 at 12:03

3 Answers 3


In Arnold Kane's autobiography, My Meteoric Rise to Obscurity, he fondly remembers his involvement with the production of Make Your own Kind of Music, a one-hour music/variety program that aired in 1971. He says

We wrote all the scripts before production started

It was only an eight-episode summer-replacement series, but it seems to meet the requirements.


The British show SPACED consisted of two "series" each 7 episodes long. Each series was completely written before filming began. It allowed them to have more natural call-backs and to keep a more strict control over the tone of the program. It's also brilliant and funny and made by the chaps who brought us Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End.

  • 1
    Great answer, this also satisfies my criteria.
    – levitopher
    Oct 26, 2013 at 3:51

The BBC recorded and broadcast a series of 37 Shakespeare plays. So that's a series which was completely written (hundreds of years) before filming began.

I don't know if you'd consider 37 episodes to be short. I'd say it's long compared to most UK TV series, but perhaps fairly short compared to most US TV series.

There have also been various adaptations of books that would probably qualify (e.g. Jane Eyre, Pride And Prejudice, Tom Jones).

  • 1
    While this might answer a very literal interpretation of the question, I feel it misses the essence of the question. This in addition to the fact that just because a TV show is based on an existing play or novel, doesn't mean that there isn't writing to be done - the screenplay/teleplay - for the show itself. Just because Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing in 1598 doesn't mean Kenneth Brannagh didn't have to write his movie in 1993, and Joss Whedon in 2012. Jun 20, 2013 at 12:20
  • The answer is correct but the comment is more correct; I am looking for new material. Upvote for technically right but I am looking for things which are written for TV.
    – levitopher
    Jun 20, 2013 at 14:09

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