Scriptwriting for Television

Television Script Format

  • Format and story structure are well defined for television programming. A 1/2 hour story runs about 22 minutes; an hour show, about 45 minutes with commercials placed for the remaining time. The breaks must be in the right spot and needed to be compelling enough to bring the viewer back to the program.
  • A TV Series, is a serial. It refers to the collection of episodes that make up the series. But one episode is a \”Show\”.
  • A TV Show and TV Program mean the same thing. They both refer to an individual program or episode that you view. This can be an episode of a series, or a movie, or basically anything that is broadcast that takes up a time slot (as opposed to a commercial).
  • There’s little difference between the format of writing a screenplay for film and writing a television play. The scene description, dialogue, character headings, and location headings are pretty much the same. The real difference  is how the story is structured and how that structure is presented aesthetically through the format.
  • Generally an hour long episode scripts can be anywhere from 45-63 pages, and usually consists 50-55 pages. The basic sense of it is that one page equals one minute, and writer need to account for commercial breaks.

Television Program Genre

  • \”Sitcom\” means \”Situational Comedy\”. It\’s a type of comedy that is based on the situations that characters get into. Another type of comedy is the \”Romantic comedy\” or “Romcom” where the humor takes second place to the romance between the main characters.
  • Sitcom & Romcom are usually just half hour episodes, therefore, the structure and page counts are less and mostly limited to three act structure  — the standard beginning, middle, and end. Dramas are typically one hour long and follows Four-Five Act Structure.

Sample Television Script Structure

  • An hour-long drama usually has the following structure:


2.Act I

3.Commercial break

4.Act II

5.Commercial break

6.Act III

7.Commercial break

8.Act IV

9.Commercial break


The Structure of a Television Series Script 


  • In an hour long television series episode, first a Teaser scene comes, followed by Act One, Act Two, Act Three, Act Four, and sometimes Act Five, depending upon the show.
  • This TEASER will usually be a short opening, restricted to one location or maybe to more. The teaser is an introduction to the characters and to the world. The TEASER tease the peril, struggle, conflict, or situation that the episode will tackle.


  • ACT 1 starts after the TEASER. ACT 1 introduces the current story at hand, and the action that will be started with the characters leading up to the point of the next act where they will be confronted by the situation at hand. Usually writer ends the ACT 1, or any other act, with a hook to grab the attention of the audience.


  • In ACT 2, characters are shown dealing with the conflicts with their full might. They’re struggling with it. They’re figuring out how to get through it. Much like the beginning of the second act of a feature film script, the characters often still have some hope or chance. By the end of this act, the audience feels like the characters may figure things out — until, that is, another hook is introduced that flips that hope or chance on its head, forcing the characters to face the fact that they may not succeed.


This is where the characters are at their lowest point and the bad guys or conflict is winning. Where the second act gave the audience hope that they’d figure it out, all too often the third act is where that hope was proven to be false. By the end hook of this act, audiences will want to tune in to see how the characters will prevail despite such odds against them.


  • This is where the characters, against all odds, begin to prevail again. They start to triumph and win. They’ve likely learned from their missteps in the first and second act and now they’re applying that to the conflict at hand.


  • This is the closure act. Some shows actually end with the fourth act while others end the fourth act with a significant hook and then use the fifth act to close things up.
  • It is usually a good practice to start any ACT on a new page. This helps the reader to distinguish between the break.


  • A short scene at the end of a show that usually provides some upbeat addition to the climax.

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