What Do You Wish Sitcom Producers Knew?
July 15, 2011 10:14 AM Subscribe
In order to create an original show, I turn now to the Hive Mind. Please share with me your preferences and help me find the common threads and elements linking the best sitcoms to ever be broadcast!
posted by EatTheWeak to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Hi, AskMe. Here's the situation: after appearing regularly in a local comedy show, this weekly performance has been placed in my hands - the venue trusts me and I've been given the reins. For the past couple months, this has been a standup showcase / open mic sort of situation and we're building a respectable following and have a stable of reliable comics. However, I feel as if the show could use another element to give it some variety, some final act for it all to build to.
In the past, this meant an improv show right up until the majority of our regular group all moved away. (also, to be honest, I'm not big on improv - when it's good, it can be brilliant, but when it's bad it becomes kind of a grinding embarrassment. And it's been done to death in this town) The situation with sketch is pretty similar - the best players are currently off the board and I feel like there's been a kind of sketch saturation round here in the first place.
Now, what I do presently have access to is a rather large network of very funny, very talented actors - many of whom will soon be without a show to appear in for awhile. In thinking on all these amazing, diverse performers I am fortunate enough to know, I began to consider the possibilities of creating an ongoing, serialized, live action sitcom of which we could produce and stage a brief episode of every week! My hope would be that the core cast could be large and flexible enough that if, performer X or Y wasn't available for this or that week, we could do an episode focusing on performer Z's character and keep a number of subplots and the like percolating from show to show and thus build a crowd who wanted to know what would happen next!
Now, to pull this off, I obviously need to create a compelling enough set of characters and a setting / hook which is interesting enough to keep people in their seats after the standup wraps, not to mention coming back from week to week. And that's where I need your help, AskMe: In your opinion, what are the elements of a truly great sitcom? While I'm of course interested in any and all illustrative examples from the whole history of broadcast, I'm not looking for a list of your favorite shows but rather why you think your favorite show works. What is it about the setting and the characters and the kind of comedy which they deliver that keeps you coming back from week to week? I'm looking to create setting, character and story arc from the ground up here and could really do with some outside information on what works best from actual viewers, not critics (though I'm doing plenty reading on that front as well).
Conversely, if there are some common elements linking most bad sitcoms, I'd like to hear your thoughts on that as well and hopefully avoid those pitfalls. Why do you stop watching a show, or navigate away during commercials and forget to switch back? To your mind, what doesn't work about some serialized comedies? (NOTE: I'm already philosophically opposed to the "very special episode." My personal taste in comedy is more about laughs and less about learning and hugging and growing. Unless it's done hilariously)