So a few years ago I had a really bad pun I needed to get rid of. It was too bad to use on it’s own on facebook so I had to think of a way to make it somewhat acceptable. In the end I decided on this:
Okay it’s not the best method but it transformed a shit joke into a mediocre one. I then used the “reasons I’d make a terrible superhero” to dump out more bad puns, then shit changed. I started to use jokes about the format of superhero movies, about morality, and about vengeance. People really started to dig it, so I considered having it in another medium. We briefly had a webcomic (visible here) but I needed more. I eventually decided as a sketch show, albeit one where every episode has a running theme. It was when I was thinking of this that I came up with one of the most distinguished parts of the series: Lee would be a male character, but Superlee would be female. I’ll freely admit that this is because the one performer I trust with this character is a woman, plus I found the idea funny. It’s easy to justify too, just say “well, of course, I look different, that’s a point of a secret identity”. That part has been kept, because I found it funny, and it’s unique. Plus it really sets up the weird pseudo-reality tone that I’m going for. There was just one issue; sketch shows are really fast-paced, and the way I write REALLY isn’t. So I put it on the backburner until last month when I needed to write a sitcom for reasons I can’t be bothered to go into here. It went through a few structural changes as I was writing it. I had a character who was originally supposed to be in one scene but then I decided to make him a season regular. I added a narrator, not so much for the benefit of this episode but it will really come into it’s own later in the season. The format is pretty much settled, and all but one major character. I’ve set up the first season with this episode and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve managed, especially since with the exception of one scene it’s filmable on a cheap budget. I know this isn’t the final draft, but I’ve definitely got the major parts down. I feel different drafts from here on in will be tweaks rather than complete rewrites. Hope you guys enjoy it too, here you go:
So yeah, I attempted to write a sitcom. I’ve had this “gimmick” for a while now but didn’t really do much with it. The difficulty with it is how to sell it to people. Outside of the central gimmick, I don’t really know what separates it from others; the situations and characters are pretty standard.
The gimmick: the two main characters have a “Headspace” (Hey, that’s the title of the show). It’s essentially a monologue room/look inside their brain. Both rooms will be relatively blank at the start: containing just a chair. The room itself will be used to show how their minds are at the moment: as they get closer their rooms will start to share certain elements to showcase the closeness of the characters. When the characters start feeling depressed this will be symbolised by their rooms becoming more empty. Within the monologue room, the characters will be interacting with the viewing audience (for example at one point one of the characters will refer to something that a character just said and point out that the show will be coming back to it in a future episode).
I’m aiming for a slightly meta sense of humour, with the occasional joke made about typical sitcom tropes and conventions. As the series goes on these will get larger, so you have entire episodes that deal with tropes specific to a certain genre. For example, there will be a Halloween episode which is based around the characters telling stories. This will be mocking the different trends often used in the different types of horror films. As the series develops I’d be able to develop more emotional storylines which will tug on the heartstrings of the viewer. That is why my first attempt at doing this script failed. I was too miserable to delve too deeply into my own psyche and look at mental health issues. It just made it kind of hateful and cruel, and incredibly disjointed. I think I’ve done better with this, made the characters more likeable, have a much better first episode plot than I did last time too. The tricky thing is setting up the gimmick, I need to do it enough times that the audience grasps it, but not do it so much it becomes annoying. I think I’ve managed that but it’s not really for me to judge.
I know at the moment it’s not really there yet. I need to delete a few pages, develop the side characters more, and (most importantly) make it funnier. I’m going to need a MUCH higher joke ratio for this to work, but I feel for a first draft I’ve done pretty well here. I’m currently doing a pilot script for another sitcom, and I should be able to post that in a few days time, that one has a MUCH higher joke rate. Jokes are something I really struggle with, I’m okay with comedic situations etc, but I take way too long to get to them and for a sitcom that’s not really suitable. They really need to come thick and fast (title of your sex tape) and to be honest, I kind of suck at that (that’s what she said). It’s a unique skill, and I’m getting there, but it’s obviously going to take practice. I’m going to need to do drafts which are just putting in jokes etc. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it, notes and feedback always welcome
Start off with obvious here; the songs in this show are really good, and not just “good for comedy music” good, I mean “you will end up with at least one of them stuck in your head for weeks afterwards”. They range from the incredibly catchy, the deeply inappropriate, and the incredibly catchy yet also deeply inappropriate. The songs mean it’s different from almost every other sitcom around. It’s also GENIUS from a marketing point of view. You can post all the adverts you want, yet what is likely to get people to watch sitcoms is word of mouth and personal recommendations. With sitcoms that can be hard to do as you need to find the clip on youtube and send it over (if the show hasn’t taken legal action and got the clip taken down off youtube for breaking copyright. If it was the entire episode I’d understand, but a scene? You’re killing a chance for new people to discover your show), or force someone to watch an entire episode. With this you can go “hey, I’m watching a new sitcom called Crazy Ex Girlfriend, you should watch it” “I don’t know man, what’s it like” “I’ll just send you a song. A quick 3 minute clip that I feel is funny and encapsulates the show yet also showcases the characters in a quick, easily digestible and easily shareable manner”. I’ve got people into this show through my almost constant posting of songs from it.
2. The Characters
In sitcoms you usually have your typical cliche characters within the core group; you have the ditz, the sexually active idiot, the “couple” etc. This doesn’t really do that, the characters are all snarky, bitter, and messed up. Not just that but holy crap the diversity is astounding. The male romantic lead can best be described as an “Asian Frat Bro”. Also, one of the story arcs of the first seasons is one of the characters coming to terms with his bisexuality. That may not seem like a big deal but there are very few bisexual characters (especially male ones) in television, and the ones there are tend to be either:
People who use their sexuality for power.
So just having bi visibility in this show is something that’s incredibly progressive, and the fact that’s the case is deeply disappointing and says a lot about the state of current television. That story arc also gives us one of my favourite lines of the show:
“you’re gay? Then why do they call you White Josh not Gay Josh?”
“”They don’t call other Josh “Straight Josh””
3. The Actors.
Yes, this is definitely Rachel Bloom’s showcase, she’s the lead actress, executive producer, co-creator, and writer, but the show belongs to everybody else just as much. Despite her character being the main character, she’s not afraid to let the other cast members shine, this is more than a vanity vehicle and comes off more like “look what we can do”. Santino Fontana will probably be recognised more for this than being the male lead in Frozen (and I’m glad I still haven’t watched Frozen as hearing a Disney character sing a song about UTI’s would either be weird or brilliant, I’m not sure which). Donna Lynne Champlin gives her character an air of what can best be described as “powerful vulnerability”, whilst Gabrielle Ruiz is thrown into the role of “sympathetic not-quite villain”, and carries it off beautifully, being an ultimately sympathetic character (from her point of view the series is about her downfall), yet one you still can’t like too much.
4. It’s Really Funny
It’s not just the songs that make this show funny, the script is hilarious. Whilst it’s the songs that draw you in initially, it will be the jokes that keep you invested. I was completely sold on this series before the first song (actually within the opening few minutes). Quick background about how I got into this show. I knew absolutely nothing going in, I didn’t know what it was about, what style it was, almost nothing. All I knew was Rachel Bloom was in the poster and I was bored. I got into her after hearing Fuck Me Ray Bradbury in Mitch Benn’s Podcast, two years ago. Since that I’d only really seen her in the deeply under appreciated puppet cop sitcom The Fuzz, but she wasn’t in that as much as she should have been. Then I saw the poster for this and noticed her in it, thought I’d give it a go. Within the opening we see her have a slight mental breakdown at work at the prospect of promotion, run outside and then pray whilst saying “dear God, I don’t pray to you because I believe in science”, which for an American show is a majorly risky firing shot, but hits the target easily. Although I suppose what makes this show more than just a standard sitcom (besides the music, obviously), is the emotion it portrays. Everyone who read my Bojack Horseman review (or has spoken to me for longer than 21 seconds) knows I like funny, but I LOVE emotion in sitcoms. Jokes can wear thin after the third time you’ve heard them, yet good emotional stories will stick with you. I identify with some of the characters here in ways that’s probably emotionally unhealthy (seriously, this song I feel is practically my theme music, but this also comes close). As one person I know said “[this show is] the best musical sitcom about a woman having a nervous breakdown I’ve ever seen”. And that sums it up wonderfully.
5. Season Two Is Out This Weekend (with a new theme song)
Or today if you’re in America (you lucky people). I watched the first season of this on Hulu, but I had to abandon that website when they started charging (you can have either adverts, or you can charge, having both is just greedy and highly user-unfriendly, especially with the amount of problems the website has with shows suddenly skipping back to the beginning and making you watch all the adverts again. It’s a good service for free, but a diabolical service if you pay for it). As such I was unsure of how I was going to watch the second one, would I have to resort to illegally finding it (which is something I have issue with. Although if the show is not shown in the country at all, is that still ethically dubious? Because you’re not taking viewing figures away from them as you have no way to participate to those numbers anyway). But then joy of joys, they announced it will be shown here on netflix, which makes sense as I think it was that which got the show over with people in here, they put the entire first season on a few months ago and people just fell in love with it. Best part is, UK fans won’t have to wait long, the episodes are shown in America on the Friday, then over here on the Sunday (which is actually less waiting time than Hulu, where you’d have to wait a week after airing). So yeah, this Sunday, it starts again, and I begin the process of getting songs stuck in my head on a weekly basis, I can’t wait to handle this in a solemn and dignified manner.