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Monday, February 20, 2006

Situation: Comedy

August 11, 2004

Don’t tell by boss, but by this time next year I hope to be writing for a different audience. I’ve found my perfect job: a TV sitcom writer.

The Bravo network is sponsoring a contest called Situation: Comedy, with the hope of finding TV’s next great comedy hit. Writers and creative geniuses alike can submit an original sitcom script to the network for a chance to get their show on the air. The winner will receive $25,000 and assistance in launching a writing career in TV and film. So, here’s my chance. Mine, and every other TV critic who ever condemned the networks for the pathetic sitcoms churned out annually.

Writing a quality comedy that networks will buy doesn’t seem that difficult, considering some of the shows already on the air. Blue Collar TV, I’m talking to you. I’ve already mastered part of the job requirement: writing on deadline.

And I can be funny. OK, so that’s debatable. But funny didn’t seem to be a requirement for Coupling. Besides, the industry has those automatic laugh machines to ensure that someone will be laughing at my lame jokes. The blank stares I get now are a little disconcerting.

With dreams of fame, fortune, and a chance to someday meet George Clooney, I set my sights on writing the perfect sitcom. Limited only by my imagination and viscous vocabulary, I wasted no time in getting down some ideas.

They say it’s best to write what you know. My first thought was a show set in a newsroom. It centered on a witty, sarcastic reporter and her diverse coworkers. No, wait. It’s been done. How could I top Murphy Brown?

I moved on to drawing on my experience as a deejay in college and high school. A show set in a radio station could be fun. But I guess WKRP in Cincinnati covered that.

How about a show that takes place in a high school? No, too Square Pegs and Freaks and Geeks.

Each scenario I imagined, seemed familiar: A hospital –Scrubs. A babysitter – The Nanny. A diner – Alice. A blue-collar family – Roseanne. An alien – Alf. A rescue dog – Lassie.

Suddenly, I understood why Seinfeld was a show a about nothing. Writing a sitcom isn’t as simple as it sounds. Virtually every situation I fabricated has been done. Maybe that’s the real reason we have reality TV. Writers are out of fresh ideas.

But I’m not giving up. I’m certain I have it in me. There was my short-lived stint as a Subway sandwich artist back in the ninth grade. That was certainly a comedy of errors. I have the oven-burn scar on my arm to prove it. But, I don’t think “white or wheat” is exactly cutting-edge humor.

How about a comedy about a newlywed couple who allows a camera crew to capture their every move for a reality TV show? Nah. That would never work.

Maybe I won’t turn in my resignation just yet.

Until Hollywood comes calling, Jennifer Biller can be reached by e-mail at jennifer@tube-talk.com.

Originally published 8/11/04 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


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