Creating a saleable sitcom is rather like creating a decent meal. Assemble the correct ingredients, and there’s a good chance of some tasty fare.
Ingredients for Creating a Saleable Sitcom
Firstly, you must have good characters with depth and longevity of interest for the viewer. We (the audience) don’t necessarily have to like them, Basil Fawlty wasn’t a particularly likable character (he was a bully and a snob), but we do have to want to know what they’re going to get up to next. This is why you always hear the same mantra whether you are attending a comedy writing workshop, or talking to a producer, ‘all good comedy is character driven’.
Your next ingredient must be your situation; The most inappropriate man to run a hotel, running a hotel – Three priests forced to live together on an island – A disparate band of aging men and misfits thrown together through war – Two brothers and an ageing relative wheeling and dealing to make ends meet – Four aliens come to earth disguised as humans in order to discover the ways of the world. There are endless situations you can create, but in the end they boil down to one of, or a combination of, work, rest and play. Fawlty Towers, The IT Crowd and Cheers are all good examples of work based sitcoms. Men Behaving Badly, Friends and The Royle Family are all rest based sitcoms (ie – mainly set at home). The Vicar Of Dibley, Father Ted and Only Fools and Horses are a combination of work and rest. The play category is more easily explained by being a situation other than work or rest, like; My Name Is Earl, Rab C. Nesbitt and Pulling. I’ll leave you to work out what fits into the various other combinations. Of course it is not necessary for you to determine which category your sitcom falls into as this will be self-apparent, but it is necessary for you to have a situation.
Most Important Part of any Sitcom
Of all the sitcoms I mentioned in the previous paragraph, what is the first thing that comes to mind? That’s right – the characters.
For each episode you will need to add a good helping of plot into your mix in order to drive your sitcom. Plots can be life changing; A stranger turns up at the door and announces that he is your main character’s long lost brother – Your main character loses her job – Your main character becomes Prime Minister. Or not; your main character has a date – Your main character decides to spend the day in bed – Your main character has a dentists appointment. A plot needs only to be a catalyst which kicks off that particular episode. Ignore plot at your peril.
Infuse your sitcom with original, snappy and of course funny dialogue and you are almost ready to serve.
At the risk of labouring the point, your comedy should come from your characters actions and inter-actions with each other. It’s all well and good filling your sitcom up with one liners, but I fear that an audience would soon tire of this and will crave some characters they can sympathise or empathise with.
So, strong characters, a good situation, snappy dialogue and a plot. There, you’ve gone and got yourself a sitcom. All you need to do now is grab the interest of a producer and you’re in sitcom heaven.
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