About Sitcoms... Let's use TBBT as an example

One of the recent TBBT threads got me wondering about this again. Now, it seems to take a week of production to tape a half hour episode. That is, the cast has it’s first table read on Monday and on Thursday or Friday they tape a dress rehearsal and then later, they tape again. But there’s more going on that I wonder about.

  1. When a series goes off hiatus and begins production, how many scripts do they already have in hand? Do the producers and writers go off on hiatus also or do they get more of a 2 or 3 week break?

B - There are some sets that pretty much stay the same all the time, and there are some occasional sets that I suppose are broken down and set aside for the next time they’re needed. And new sets, maybe one shot sets, are needed. So, how much lead time do set designers, carpenters, etc. get? They certainly can’t start setting up stuff for episode 2 until episode 1 is taped, but wouldn’t they need more than 4/5 days to figure out what they’ll need and procure it, let alone assemble it? Costumers too. Can they turn out 4 Flash costumes in less than a week?

iii : How long does post-production for a 1/2 hour sitcom take? Let’s say for a show that hardly uses any special effects other than an occasional car in front of a green screen, which can pretty much be done “in house”.

I can answer one part. Carol Ann Susi (Howard’s mother) died November 11, 2014. The episode where the death was revealed was on February 19, 2015. That was seven new episodes after she died (actually six, as one episode aired only two days after she died.)

So it looks like, at least in midseason, they have about six episodes in the bank. But, assuming they wanted to get that episode on the air ASAP, it seems it takes a good amount of time to get one written and shot.

I have no idea how much effort the flash costume for the show takes but I have a friend who costumes for theaters here in the twin cities and she can turn out 30+ chorus dresses in a weekend. And that’s starting from bolts of fabric.

I attended the taping of an episode of Frasier in December that was aired in February.

That part varies a lot. For sitcoms once the show has been taped it’s usually just editing, and I’d guess the vast majority of the time that’s no more than a day’s work. It would be a rare case where additional scenes were shot, or existing scenes re-shot. Complexities such as showing both parties on a phone call or celebrity cameos get taken care of ahead of time when possible. Occasionally a scene is reshot using stand-ins to correct a problem. Special effects used in sitcoms mostly come from stock. If you think about taking 22 minutes of mainly dialogue from a movie there wouldn’t be much more than a day of post-production time taken for that either. For hour long dramas which usually involve multiple locations and more complex stories there may be a lot more work.

Regarding location shoots, like scenes set in an urban downtown as the characters walk around, they can do quite a bit with green screen technology. So that the actors are walking in an empty, monochromatic studio and the city background is added by computers. I remember seeing a YouTube video that demonstrated this, but I can’t find it now.

And I imagine the studio may have a variety of fake walls and doors that can be adapted for use for various indoor scenes.

Pretty sure the studio has premade generic sets they can quickly customise for the show. Like the Gilmore girls town set used in all kinds of shows and films.