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Posted on September 18, 2007 - by writerman
The Rebirth of the Sitcom
You should totally take a writing class at UCLA. It was one of the first things I did after moving myself to the Promised Land. Sure, it costs a couple of bucks, but think of what you get in exchange…
- Notes on your work from someone you aren’t related to or sleeping with
- The chance to meet some other writers. Handy if, say, you wanted to start a secret society or stop drinking alone.
I just took a sitcom writing class. Now you might be wondering if that’s such a good idea, since you heard the Sitcom is Dead. Not to worry though, if sitcoms are dead this year, it can only be a matter of time before they’re the Next Big Thing all over again.
My class was taught by David & Julie Chambers – UCLA’s only husband-and-wife teaching and comedy team. Lovely folks. And funny. David keeps the train on the tracks and provides all the wry one-liners, while Julie is like an idea factory fueled by sugar and enthusiasm. Plus, they gave me tons of great notes on my My Name is Earl spec about child-rearing, roller derby and gambling in Sunday School. Did i mention that they’re working with Mel Brooks?
One of the tricky things about penning a TV spec is that you have to write like someone else. There are lots of ways to learn to do this, like marathon DVD-watching sessions of past episodes or downloading copies of old scripts, but David & Julie had a really good litmus test to determine if you know a show.
Pick a character from a sitcom you want to spec and describe their birthday party.
If it sounds like an episode of the show, then you’re ready to start writing. Here’s what I came up with:
Randy Hickey – My Name is Earl
A Smokey and the Bandit-themed affair at the Crab Shack, with all of his closest friends. And this time, Randy is the Bandit. Following the pony rides, tricycle races and the busting of the piñata, things are going great until, emboldened by his 10-gallon hat, Burt Reynolds mustache and 16 beers, he confesses his undying love to Catalina. I think that was right before Catalina punched Joy in the face. Or, maybe after. It’s all a bit of a blur…
J.D. from Scrubs
The Lovin’, Touchin’ Feelin’s (J.D.’s fav Journey tribute band) play a surprise gig on J.D.’s porch. Thanks, Turk. Don’t stop believing.
Michael from The Office
The whole gang is invited to a wild-and-crazy-no-holds-barred night of birthday mayhem at Michael’s new condo. Oh man, it’s gonna be the party of the century. I’m talking “strippers-jumping-out-of-cakes-and-pin-the-tail-on-the-playboy-bunny” crazy.
No one comes.
Except for Dwight.
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