Monday, December 11, 2006

Dreamweaver: Time to Laugh

Welcome to the much-delayed third edition of Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver is where I present some ideas for movies, TV, whatever that I think Hollywood should make. We are going to be dipping our collective toes into the sitcom pool with my idea for a new show: Time to Laugh: The Making of a Sitcom.

The title seems wieldy, no? That’s intentional. It is supposed to be a riff on the title of the “Behind the Scenes” portions of DVDs that seem to either have some incredibly cheesy or totally unrelated title. And that reasoning behind the title should clue you in on what the series would be about: a documentary about the making of a sitcom. Each episode would be about making the corresponding episode for some unseen sitcom. So the first episode/pilot would be about making the first episode/pilot of the fictional series.

The show would focus on the four regular actors on the show, the executive producer and some revolving director/writer. In the mold of Seinfeld, the male lead on the show-within-a-show would also be the creator and head writer. He is a comedian and the show is loosely based on his material. His best friend (and initially only friend) on the show is the executive producer. There is another male lead who is probably the most famous of the foursome, with a career that flamed out early. The two female leads are relative newbies, with one a former a comedic performer (like in The Groundlings or other improv like group) and the other is someone who has worked on Broadway. Of course, one of the leads could not be seen until the second episode to reflect the changes that are usually made between the pilot and the second episode of a show.

The show would be shot in documentary form like The Office and Arrested Development is/were. There are subtitles showing location details and actors names when they are first introduced. You can clearly see the sets of the show-within-a-show, but you would never see what the finished product looks like. The comedy would come from the interaction of the people working on the show, who play friends in front of the camera, but really couldn’t care less for each other away from the lens. Also, the pressure of trying to be funny would in itself be funny. Imagine the main character constantly being asked if what he just said was meant to be funny and him being exasperated.

The show wouldn’t be too “Inside Hollywood”, with anything show bizzy being treated more like a typical work place problem. Network moving your show from the plum timeslot to Friday nights? Just going to have to grin and bear it (and complain to no end). Got passed over for that movie role? Rub it in your coworkers’ faces that you actually had a chance. The cast and crew wouldn’t care about the Emmys until actually nominated. It sounds a little clichéd sure, but the show should serve as a smart parody and satire of all sitcoms and their mundane premises.

With Studio 60 and 30 Rock both offering an inside look at a sketch comedy show, there might be a saturation point already reached in the TV landscape for backstage antics. It should be noted that both shows are struggling with ratings. But Studio 60 is a drama and 30 Rock is looking more and more like a fun farce than an actual sitcom. Time to Laugh would be more like My Name is Earl and The Office, where it is real life with a slight twist. There would be no laugh track (except in scenes where they are rehearsing a scene with the studio audience). It is just a behind-the-scenes vignette viewed through a distorted lens and lasting 22 minutes.

Boy, I referenced a lot of NBC shows in this piece.


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