Friday, October 24, 2014

Multi-cam sitcoms can be a great learning tool.

As I've probably written about it on this site before, when it comes to writing a spec script, very few things are as important as choosing the right show that your script is going to be based on. In fact, it might actually be the most important decision that you're going to make.

One of those important things that you need to consider when you choose a show to spec is to make sure that the show has a lot of potential as a series. If you have any ambitions as a writer, you can never choose a show that isn't any good.

All good shows are well written or at least have the potential to be well written. The characters in them are believable and you can relate to them. The storylines have a connection to reality and the stakes are - if not always high - they still exist.

The reason you should choose a good show is because that way you get to challenge yourself. Choosing a good show gives you a chance to come up with a good spec. Writing a script based on a bad show won't give you that chance - you won't write anything good.

But there are other ways to challenge yourself too, because it's not only about choosing a good show, It's also about choosing a format that will teach you the most and  will be the best learning experience for you.

When it comes to sitcoms, you can choose between two formats: you can either choose a single camera show like Modern Family, or a multi camera show like The Big Bang Theory (multi-cam shows are recorded in front of a live studio audience and have "laugh tracks").

As far as I know, pretty much everyone agrees that it's at least somewhat more difficult to write multicam sitcoms than it is to write single camera sitcoms where you are not bound by locations. In single camera sitcoms there are far fewer restrictions.

Multicams are harder to write because there are only so many places where your characters can go and there are only so many things that they can do. You need better and stronger ideas for multicam sitcoms than you need for single camera sitcoms.

Not only you need stronger ideas, but in many cases - like for example in Frasier or on Everybody Loves Raymond, you need like really good ideas. You might have just one central storyline - and to make things more challenging, it might happen in one single room.

This is the reason that writing specs for The Big Bang Theory is so challenging. It forces you to think really hard before you can start writing. You need to think about the characters, what their strengths and weaknesses are and what you can do about them.

Nothing comes for free. If you don't have that big central idea that would get you through the script, you are screwed. You don't have those two or three other parallel storylines to bail you out. It's hard work to come up with one plot point after another.

Of course I'm not saying that you won't learn stuff from single cams sitcoms - but I would definitely recommend that you check out multicams too. They're harder to write, but in the end I think you'll probably learn more from then than you'll learn from single cams.

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