First Sitcom Eps

Lately, been taking a look at the first episodes of a few sitcoms. The vast majority of them plunge you straight into the comedic action, as if ep 1 could be interchangeable with ep 4 or 5. There are a few exceptions, which are often referred to as 'premise pilots'. In these, ep 1 is devoted to setting up the format which the other eps will follow.

I started a hashtag thread on Twitter over the weekend, to which the likes of The IT Crowd's script editor Andrew Ellard and Peep Show writer Sam Bain ended up contributing. As you'd expect, much wisdom was the result. Here are some choice excerpts, after I asked what good examples of first sitcom eps might be...

@ellardent: "#FirstSitcomEps Friends is my high-watermark pilot. Characters come in clear, it has its own stories, series entirely established. Perfect."

@ellardent: "#FirstSitcomEps I'm pretty anti full-on premise pilots - set-up shows that don't entirely resemble what the show will be."

@ellardent: "#FirstSitcomEps BBC4's Getting On, Great Outdoors and Thick Of It all nail first eps - when you only have 3 eps, you get on with 'the show'."

@sambaintv: "#FirstSitcomEps The Simpsons - like most sitcoms, the characters get better drawn over time."

@ellardent: "#FirstSitcomEps Writing an ep one that could be ep 2 is a sign of confidence. "This is our show." Peep Show, Men Behaving Badly. No crutch."

You can take a look at the whole thread here - it's quite compact. Twitter conversations being what they are, you'll want to start at the bottom for the oldest post, then read up. Good day to you.

1 comment:

Iain Coleman said...

The general principle that the first episode shouldn't be all about setup is a good one, but Red Dwarf is an interesting exception. Most sitcoms have a readily graspable situation - two blokes in a flat, a frustrated hotelier, three soldiers in a First World War trench - but Red Dwarf has a much more complex premise. It needs time to set up, and indeed the subsequent episodes need a voice-over from Holly at the start explaining the situation. That's because Red Dwarf was trying to be a proper sci-fi show as well as being funny. If it had been a more obvious parody of a particular type of SF, like Hyperdrive was, then it could take the situation much more for granted, as the audience would be familiar enough with the standard tropes to grasp the setup easily.