Critique my sitcom!

choie, Thanks so much for the thoughtful reply! No bravery really in sharing this; there’s zero chance anyone’s going to hurt my feelings. That’s why I posted it here - I know I can trust the feedback to be objective (assuming posters don’t have a vendetta against me that I’m unaware of). Also, I’m aware for the most part of the weak points, and this will hopefully help me when I go to rewrite.

Never heard of “Peepshow”, and it looks like it’s unavailable on Netflix, but I’ll try to see if I can find it somewhere online and check it out. The unsympathetic characters were meant to be that way (since they have to do some pretty appalling things), but I agree they need some more humanizing to appeal to any but the most cultish crowd. Thanks again!

Le Ministre de l’au-delà, Thank you as well. I’m not familiar with the Fringe Festival, but will look into it. I came here for advice, and am interested in anything that will improve the scripts.

I guess this would be close:

  1. Two asshole friends - one owes money to the mob, which he acquires when he stumbles into a drug deal and robs the players. Both friends are bitten by zombie squirrels and become zombies themselves.

  2. Assholes go to pay back the mob and end up getting hired as hitmen.

  3. Assholes start hungering for brains; meet a stranger who pisses them off and who ends up being their first victim.

In a nutshell.

You’re very welcome! Wow, I’m genuinely shocked you haven’t seen Peep Show – the similarities are uncanny. Weird. It’s on Hulu if you want to give it a try, although at least now you have plausible deniability! :smiley: It’s widely considered one of the best British sitcoms of the decade, even with the wretched and nearly unlikeable main characters; they somehow manage to be enjoyable, funny and even sympathetic despite all the horrid things they do.

Yep, registered (paid fee) with WGA & Copyright Office, which means I’ll have to pay again when they’re rewritten, I guess, but it seemed prudent to do before sharing.

Like I said, none of this is going to hurt my feelings. The fact that people couldn’t get through it is certainly something to take under advisement, and all critiques ultimately help. On the other hand, I realize that no matter how much improvements I make, some (many?) people are still going to hate it. After a certain amount of tweaking, I’m going to have to rely more on the “target audience” (whoever that may be) than the general public. But for now, I’m just looking for concrete suggestions.

A table read sounds like an excellent idea. I’m sure there’s some group in my area who does such things. I’ll check it out.

Sounds like it’s right up my alley. Do you think the characters are sympathetic because of the writing or the acting? I always wonder how much writers rely on the charisma of the people acting out their words.

ETA: My bad - it is on Netflix. I’d typed it in as one word, but went back after your post and found it using the correct spacing. Added to the queue!

Oh, actors definitely help in this respect, but the writing is the bedrock here. There’s a limit to what actors can do if the writing for their characters isn’t solid. For example, in Peep Show there are countless little moments where Mark (the “responsible” one with the unrequited crush) does his sad but level best to impress Sophie (the girl he likes), such as by exchanging daily ‘humorous’ cartoons drawn on Post-It Notes. He’s desperate to appear casually witty in an off-the-cuff way, but of course goes through several drafts because he’s such an insecure wreck. Part of the conceit of the show is that it’s shot in semi-1st person POV, where the audience sees through the eye of the camera as if we’re one of the characters. Throughout, we hear the characters’ hilarious thought processes. As wild as the show gets, there’s always an element of believable, observational humor.

Jeremy, who’s the equivalent to Bob in your script, could be absolutely hateful – he’s a using, manipulative, shallow tool. The writers still show us the humanity hidden deep in his obnoxiousness by revealing lines that even he won’t cross (and we’re talking about a guy who eats a dog and casually contemplates raping his best friend), and showing his own genuine need to prove his musical “talent.”

Basically even among the wild behavior of these two pathetic bastards, there are always moments of downtime where the script lets us watch them be human.

Aimless banter is fun to write. But it’s a lot less fun to read (or watch).

You take way, way, way too long to get to the premise. Get the plot moving early, then weave the banter into the action as the story plunges forward.

Right now it reads like a muscle car sitting in the driveway revving it’s engine over and over again. Stop vamping and get driving.

I read the first one. I seem to be in a minority here, but I kinda liked it. I didn’t think it sounded like a zillion other derivative would-be sitcoms, and I found the dialogue engaging. I really liked ‘Genius crime’ and the rationale behind it.

I didn’t mind the lack of strong plotting. It’s true that most sitcoms strain hard to quickly develop plot hooks, but I usually find this very contrived and formulaic. What you’re doing isn’t formulaic, so some will criticise your writing for not conforming to the accepted norms. However, I would praise you for trying to go in a different direction, even at the risk of diminishing your script’s commerical potential.

The closest comparison I can think of is an old (70s) sitcom much loved here in the UK called ‘The Likely Lads’ (and its sequel ‘Whatever happened to the Likely Lads’). Vast sections of this sitcom were nothing but two rather mis-matched friends chatting in a pub, yet it was very engaging, very funny and very popular.

I like your fondness for wordy dialogue (although I’m clearly in a minority on this point) and your trust that the characters alone, and their exchanges, could be sufficient to warrant my attention as a viewer. I think you’ve put a lot of effort into keeping the dialogue fresh and interesting, and making sure that I can’t guess what’s coming up.

There has been a lot of harsh criticism in this thread, but if I were you I wouldn’t let that put you off. A lot of people have no idea how hard it is to write comedy, nor are they particularly good at spotting what will or will not work. I’m not much of an expert either, but at least I’ve written comedy sketch shows with Eddie Izzard and I’ve had sketches I’ve written broadcast on TV.

It’s up to you where you go from here. You can either decide that you’re okay with writing material that has its own quirky, non-standard charm, even though it may not have mainstream commercial appeal. Or you can take what you’ve got now as a starting point, and decide to take it in a more ‘mainstream’ commercial direction and start obeying standard network preferences as known. Either way, good luck, don’t give up, and have faith in your own ideas.

that synopsis sounds pretty good. If they developed it into a show I would most likely give it a go. I kinda like assholes being assholes, adding the mob into play sounds interesting. You should take the critiques to heart and rewrite the dialogue perhaps to dumb it down for people like me who want to not be boggled down with big words and meta comedy. Sounds like a fresh idea using existing popular ideas.

I am not a comedy professional but have been paid for comedy writing by a TV network and professional comedians. I liked episode one and laughed out loud at several gags. I started reading episode 2 but it seemed to run out of steam half way through.

I’m sure that the scripts would receive plenty of work before they were made into anything but I will mention three things I disliked. The word Dude is way overused Dude. A lot of the dialogue has one character talking for what seems an age. Could some of it be restructured to make it more back and forth? Several times Bob has a line that seems simply to explain the pop culture reference of the funny line preceding. This is really annoying.

As to what to do with it when you have honed it to perfection. Make it a radio play (10 minute segments for morning commuter radio). That will allow you to get even sillier with the whole premise. Or make it yourself for the net. The stuff I have read doesn’t need a studio or vast sets.

Anyhow good luck and just remember most of good comedy writing is rewriting. What you throw away is as important as what you keep.

it sucks. a lot. mainly because it’s not funny. none of it. i could go through line by line and tell you how you’ve failed as a comedic writer, but the gist of it is… your jokes suck. your banter isn’t witty, your situations are unbelieveable/unrelatable/unfunny, and your characters all suck in various different ways.

also the fact that you need 3 episodes to say what you need to in 1? not a good sign. i don’t even think your idea is revisable to resemle a marketable product. don’t quit your day job.

So it would seem my target audience is professional comedy writers, eh? I can live with that.

ianzin, I appreciate your comments. Funny thing is, this was me trying to be commercial, so apparently, as usual, instead of having my finger on the pulse of popular culture, that pulse turns out to be a spasm caused by gas (hell, I was sure Robyn Hitchcock was gonna be HUGE in the mid-'80s). But while I do value input from others - especially those I don’t know IRL, since they have no reason to blow smoke up my ass - I also know what I like, and have faith that at least some others will share my tastes (as you seem to). So I’ll work on making it better, but I doubt there will be any major changes in tone. And I enjoy dialogue - I notice many films/TV shows I’ve admired, from Tarantino and Linklater to Larry Sanders and the British Office were pretty talky. Obviously, I’m not comparing what I’ve written to them, but I think that element will always be present.

May I ask (this goes for you as well, don’t ask): How did you get into comedy writing? I literally have no idea how you’d go about honing that craft. Improv troupe? Networking?

don’t ask, good points all. The second episode definitely needs a total rewrite. I’ll look at the dialogue and see if it can be restructured more along the line you suggest. Thanks for the suggestions.

Hamster King, I know what you’re saying, and the episode I’m currently working on will hopefully be faster paced. Having said that, the plots of individual episodes are not as important to me as the overall story arc, so it’s probably not going to be the same as most episodic sitcoms.

And this is constructive criticism how? This is basically what I asked people not to do in the OP. Boiled down, it says, precisely: “It sucks”. Which is opinion with absolutely no thought put into it, which others at least attempted. IOW: if you’re looking to become a professional critic, don’t quit your day job.

I didn’t have much of a writing career although it could have been different if one show had been made at a different time. I got into comedy writing by dumb luck. Two guys I worked with became close friends and they ended up becoming stand up comedians. They had been writing together since high school. Eventually they became TV writers and producers. I did stuff with them on an informal basis. Just butting in and adding my 2 cents worth for stuff they had written or making submissions for sketch shows they were producing.

The first thing I ever wrote was my class play in 5th grade, Superduperman. This was in the 60s. The bad guy was an evil scientist called Dr Frank N Furter. I should have sued Richard O’Brien.

So, are you the person to ask about why TV comedy in Australia is so awful, or is there someone else I should be directing my ire at? :stuck_out_tongue:

Actually the last show I wrote for never aired but the experience is typical. It was a sketch comedy show. When you make submissions you submit everything you have written because they pay by the minutes of airtime that you wrote. Every sketch of mine that I thought was really good, the head writer hated. All the throwaway dross, they included.

A few weeks ago I came across a photocopy of one of my cheques from the 9 network. I obviously made them to show off. Wonder if Woody Allen did that?

As long as you weren’t involved in :30 Seconds, it’s all good. :wink:

Check into these for a start - United States Association of Fringe FestivalsCanadian Association of Fringe Festivals. (Sorry, I’ve always assumed you’re from the USA - there are also ones in the UK, NZ and Australia.)

Without trying to sound too ‘arty’, I think this is basically misguided. I’d say don’t try to be either commercial or not commercial. Write what you believe in, write what’s real to you, write what you know about, write about stuff you think is funny, write about things you think you have something to say about, write what you would like to watch or listen to. If you write something that’s real to you, and it turns out to have some commercial potential, great. But if you start out aiming for commercial appeal, you probably won’t get anywhere, and even if you do you will only be a derivative version of stuff that’s already out there. IMHO.

Oh, and a simple tip that will transform your material. Try having the two characters actually doing something or achieving something during this back and forth exchange of great dialogue, as opposed to just sitting at a table or on a sofa. Even if it’s something trivial like just walking down the street to get groceries or choosing a new shirt. It makes a big difference. Don’t use this trick all the time. Just use it some of the time.

Well, it’s not really an appropriate question for me because it’s not as if I’ve made a career out of it. However, to the extent that I actually have an answer for you, it would be like that old Getty formula for wealth - “Rise early, work hard, strike oil”. In my case, I just went to university and happened to meet Eddie Izzard. So that was that… we wrote and performed comedy sketch shows together. A little later, he auditioned for a sketch-comedy TV show and the producers wanted more writers. Eddie phoned and told me to send some of my stuff in (that we had previously used on stage) and so a few sketches I’d written were broadcast. End of story.

I seriously doubt it. You have demonstrated that you either couldn’t read or couldn’t understand the OP, and that you are unable to write a short post that isn’t littered with grammatical and typographical errors. This does not inspire confidence that you could achieve this level of ‘line by line’ critical analysis and assessment.

It may also be worth pointing out that sometimes the effectiveness of a comedy script cannot fairly be assessed on a ‘line by line’ basis. Sometimes, the comedic effect can only be correctly appreciated when the piece is appreciated as a whole, or when a line or set of lines are appreciated in context. The line ‘I’m out!’ doesn’t have any comedic merits on its own, but it is treasured by most Seinfeld fans, and with good reason.