I’ve been studying the Sitcom genre intensely. Gonna be writing one this weekend. Jazzy and I curled up next to my computer and we watched two episodes of Modern Family, one episode of ‘How I Met Your Mom’ and an episode of ‘Married with Children’. I timed the scenes, looked at the structure, and thought about how I’d incorporate that into my current project.
Sitcoms move unbelievably fast compared to other genres. Scenes are 30 seconds long on average. Just enough time to write the joke and move on. Plot isn’t as important as humour. Comedy is created out of funny characters in awkward situations, not plot twists. The story arc also feels flatter. It’s a full steam ahead, linear venture through jokes, uncomfortable situations, and coincidences until the clock runs out. There’s usually one big scene at the end to tie up all the sub plots (or plotlettes). Some run two acts, while a small handful run three. The act breaks don’t seem to come at any particular climactic moment. They just show up when a commercial needs to run.
As a writer, there’s enormous pressure to be funny. All you do is write jokes and every joke needs to be a zinger. Any joke that takes too long to set up needs to be thrown out or changed.
You can’t just throw everything funny at the wall either. You establish the rules or tone of the show, and you work within that framework. Characters need to stay in character. The situations can get pretty outrageous though.
Well… ideas are percolating. Gonna get pounding.