British Comedy Guide

The Sitcom Trials 2012 Page 16

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Kev F

  • Friday 6th July 2012, 9:01pm [Edited]
  • Bristol, England
  • 689 posts

Image

Offline comment:

It's clear that people are still uploading files after the June 30 deadline. This is very unfair on those of use who did a rush job to get the entries in on
time.

What's going to be done about this?

My reply:

I'll only count the votes on the 40 scripts I listed when I made the announcement, latecomers will be identified and dealt with.

Kev F

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sean knight

  • Saturday 7th July 2012, 11:51am
  • England
  • 318 posts

Since a readable version is now up

The neighbours wife
This isn't a sitcom, just another soapbox rant to the audience and I have to say your taking a hell of a risk with the material - No

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evan rubivellian

  • Saturday 7th July 2012, 8:36pm
  • England
  • 672 posts

Hello all,

Just wanted to clarify that in "You Banker!" Stan Dunderwood is wearing a disguise--the raincoat and hat--and putting on an accent until he is revealed at the end. My apologies if this is not clear in the script. I think I trimmed too much trying to get it all down to the required limits and may have left parts of the stage directions a little unclear.

Thanks to the people who've read and voted so far!

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Ponderer

  • Monday 9th July 2012, 11:01pm
  • England
  • 693 posts

Here are the votes from the Ponderer jury. I have read and commented on all as I felt those posted late deserve feedback even if Kev chooses not to count the votes. I've tried to be constructive so sorry if it doesn't come across that way in all cases - that's the problem with comedy, it tends to elicit a reaction one way or another.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS IKEA SALE - MAYBE

Well written with believable dialogue. However, it does feel like an extended sketch with little revealed about the characters other than their sex-life and proclivities. Lacking an obvious cliff-hanger and no resolution.

SHAKE YER MONEY MAKERS - NO

There are some nice lines in this but it is often confusing as to which character is which, they need to be differentiated. Also motivations are rather unclear, perhaps if you establish George as a chancer up front and give him some kind of relationship with Colin I could begin to buy the premise of the episode, but at the moment I can't.

A SPANNER IN THE WORKS - MAYBE

The plot here is reasonable, if a little dated. Dick and Pat are recognisable, but Tracey is under-developed. You could see how this might be a sitcom if the main character was not banged up at the end.

A WEEKEND WITH WOGAN - NO

I found it difficult to differentiate characters in this; the banter was almost interchangeable. There are some jokes here, but many of them seem laboured.

APOCALYPSE - NO

This has potential. There are some neat lines and the characters are emerging but, for me, all this got lost in a narrative jumble. The whole alien thing on top of the financial apocalypse is too much, seemingly just to shoehorn in another 'never saw that coming' line.

THE AUDITION - YES

I rather liked the dynamic here between the main characters, and for the most part the dialogue was believable with some funny bits. It seemed to go off the rails rather towards the end but I think there is enough here for a yes.

BE THE STATH - MAYBE

There are some funny lines and images, and I quite like the Billy Liar conceit. It might be better though if the lead actually tried to act like 'The Stath' rather than just imagining it.

BENCHED - NO

The writing here is reasonable and there is a bit of a twist but it is difficult to see this as anything other than a short, or an extended sketch.

CALLY PARK STATION - NO

Did nothing for me I'm afraid. The characters seem to exist on pretty banal banter and the plot is very minimal. Even within this characters don't seem to act particularly consistently. Also, who is off their face on 3 Bacardi Breezers?

COOPER - MAYBE

I like some of the polemic in this; funny and intelligently written, but as it stands it just isn't a sitcom. Just being grumpy or snippy makes a central character poor company for the viewer even if his views are entertaining; he needs to be incited to rail. Meldrew, for example, got angry about the vicissitudes of life and spiralling petty irritations - rather than hats. I think the character has potential though.

DELIVERANCE - YES

Mine.

DIAMOND LIFE - NO

This feels really dated. Plot, characterisation and laughs are all minimal to me too - sorry.

DOODLEBUGS - NO

The characters here are reasonably well depicted, but there is not a huge amount of laughs, nor much of a plot. Not entirely sure about an obsession with the 1940s as a central premise - possibly because I am not sure what exactly about the 40s she is obsessed with.

THE NEIGHBOUR and THE NEIGHBOUR'S WIFE - NO

These were not to my taste I'm afraid. Monsters need to have some humanity (Basil Fawlty, Partridge, etc.) if they are to be central to the plot. We have to find a reason to care about them. This just felt uncomfortable to me and they both read like extended sketches.

FLYING PIGS - MAYBE

I like the sit, and can see the fun of the paranoia bit, especially if made more cartoonish. Some funny moments but the characters need a fair bit of work as they lack depth; in particular Jenny needs to be feisty and sassy rather than just nasty - then we could see Dylan's point of view. A plot would be nice too, but there is potential here.

GAMES NIGHT - YES

A good piece with funny bits and characters and something of a plot. Probably a bit too direct in parts, and you may have undermined series potential with Shelly and Dave's apparent getting together (although I know that is central to the denouement). Much more subtle long-term tension could be wrung from gentle flirting and hinting at a shared past.

GUIDED BY VOICES - MAYBE

I rather liked the ambience of this piece. The language has a nice cadence and there are some good ideas. There is, though, a distinct lack of narrative drive.

HIJACKED - NO

Couldn't read this, sorry.

HOME SCHOOLED - NO

The premise seems contrived and somehow dated. Some good lines but characterization and plot seem rather weak to me.

MAKING HEAVY WEATHER - MAYBE

A really nice sit, and some of the dialogue was good and the two main parts are pretty sound characters. However, many of the jokes felt a bit obvious and the denouement a bit easy.

Mr. NICE GUY - YES

I struggled a bit with this initially but think there is potential in the tension revealed later in the script. Some good lines and laughs. I think the breaking the fourth wall device works OK in an opening episode to develop the relationships but I think it may become irritating in a series.

PLEASE DIE CAREFULLY - NO

This could have been a flat share for about the first half. The characters felt only around half-formed and the plot even less so.

POSTDOCS - NO

Potential here, but rather squandered on banter and a very thin plot.

SECOND COUSIN OF GOD - NO

No real narrative drive and I couldn't see much differentiation among characters. The dialogue was not, in general, very convincing. The concept of 'partial omnipotence' is, however, genius.

SERENITY NOW - NO

There is little going on here plot-wise, especially in the early stages. Try losing the 'alternative therapy is hokum' stuff up front and move on with some action. Some funny bits though.

STANBURG - NO

I think you got carried away with your ideas here; the characters and plot are swamped by the 'sit'. The world you create is not accessible at the moment and you seem to be adding odd things just for the sake of it - rather like 'This is Jinsy' (sadly I don't mean this as a compliment). If you can rein in your ideas and create a piece with a bit more narrative integrity you may well have something.

STATUS QUO - NO

Lost me at the tampon for the nose bleed I'm afraid. Crudity without wit and too much aimless banter.

STEVE AND MOHAMMED - NO

There is no discernible plot here, and no obvious basis for a sitcom. The characters are only vaguely drawn and just plain nasty. The sub 'Mind Your Language' humour with respect to the Polish guy is very dated. There is no subtlety here; the American who hates gays, the husband kissing his wife and then importuning for gay sex is all just too 'Route One'. Also, if they pride themselves on seeming straight why is all their dialogue so screamingly camp?

THE ALTERNATIVE ROUTE - MAYBE

I agree with the previous poster that the 'all alternative therapists are cynical conmen' shtick is too easy and undermines any connection with the audience - how do we connect with someone who exploits the weak and/or sick? This attitude might be OK for the receptionist who is potentially there under sufferance, but grates with the central therapist. Take a more sympathetic approach and I think this could work.

THE END OF THE LINE - YES

There seems to be a reasonable dynamic between the main characters in this piece and there are some good lines. There is potential in the teen mooching off the misery of her parents. Possibly the plot is a little self-contained and I struggle at present to see this as a series.

THE FIFTH HORSEMAN - YES

A bit torn on this. If I had never read 'Good Omens' I think it would have been a shoe-in 'yes'. As it is, I rather liked the pace, tone etc. but it felt a bit reminiscent. This is generally funny and well written but I'd like a greater sense of Tim and his relationship to the others - fighting Sandy's death might have been part of this. On balance it's a 'yes'.

THE NIGHT CLUB FAUX PAS - NO

I really did not like this. On a personal basis I found the humour puerile and fairly obvious (so I guess BBC 3 will love it). Dialogue was stilted and unbelievable and the narrator really got in the way of the story. Where this approach has been used to some effect there is a point to the narration and the voice is 'other' (see POV stuff in Peep Show where the internal monologues serve as counterpoint to the characters actual statements and thus create a tension which can be exploited) whereas here the tone is indistinguishable from the central character.

THE THRIFT COLLECTION - YES

Mine.

VERY FRIENDLY FIRE - NO

The whole Gaddafi thing is hard to see past - too recent to get away with suggesting it as a historical setting I'm afraid. There are too many jokes around mishearing, they get annoying after a while and feel a bit lazy, as does much of the characterization.

WARTHOGS - NO

I really found this very hard to follow. The language is convoluted to a point where it is impossible to imagine anyone apart from Yoda actually saying it (e.g. "Maybe you'd like weighing down with responsibilities a lot heavier, Billy?"). I think the author may just be trying too hard to be clever with language. It is a thin line between clever and clunky/indecipherable.

WAT'S ETHICS - NO

I liked some of the dialogue and interaction between Wat and Jo which seemed quite naturalistic. However the piece lacked narrative drive and was rather exposition-heavy. Not a huge amount of laughs either, although a wry smile here and there.

WHITECOATS - NO

There is some funny in this, and it has potential on that basis. However, as others have said, it has far too much going on in the way of disparate ideas and styles. Wind back the zany, focus more on character and plot and you will definitely have something.

WING MAN - MAYBE

This is generally well written and the two central characters do have the potential for tension. Amy could do with being introduced earlier and drawn more fully. My main problem is that I am not sure whether I buy Luke's motivation in wanting to tick a box. Also, Kevin seems to flip-flop from being disdainful and helping out (giving condoms etc.) without any obvious reason that I can see.

YOU BANKER - MAYBE
The premise has real promise and the characters aren't bad either. There are also some good lines but maybe the anti-banker polemic could do with toning down as it detracts from the sitcom which ought to be about the specifics rather than making more general satirical points, no matter how valid. The silly name joke grated with me personally.

In general it was fascinating to see the differeing sits, styles, etc. even if some grated with me personally - hey at least they got a reaction which is surely the point of all art. Good luck all and I look forward to my comuppance.
Teary Teary

Kev, do I need to post on Yahoo messages too?

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Kev F

  • Monday 9th July 2012, 11:57pm
  • Bristol, England
  • 689 posts
Quote: Ponderer @ July 9 2012, 11:01 PM BST

Here are the votes from the Ponderer jury....

Kev, do I need to post on Yahoo messages too?

No, just post the votes once, that's brilliant ta.

By the way, I don't know which scripts people are suggesting were uploaded late, but all the scripts I can see in the file are the same ones I listed when I announced it was time to vote. So I can only assume the later uploads are reformatted versions of scripts that were in by the deadline.

I know there's a lot of them, but read as many as you can if you can (says he, having read three so far! Hey, I've got an Edinburgh show to finish, as, I'm sure, have a few of you. Everyone's contribution is appreciated)

Kev F

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sean knight

  • Tuesday 10th July 2012, 6:33am [Edited]
  • England
  • 318 posts

Regards Wing Man and Lukes motivations. The pilot ep, with all it's exposition, reveals that Luke has been approached to write a sex chronicles book. The series focuses on Lukes trying to tick off all the boxes in the most difficult way possible as he refuses to 'cheat' by using prostitutes or conventional methods.
Kevin is torn between his consciense, which Luke always tries to eradicate, and his own needs such as spending time with Amy. There wasn't time in the script or the extra characters needed to show the change of heart and confrontation which is why I wrote the ending the way I did.

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Ponderer

  • Tuesday 10th July 2012, 10:25am
  • England
  • 693 posts

Thanks Kev.

When I said late I was referring to the ones date 1st July on the files page of Yahoo rather than ones on your list, anyway I've done them all apart from 'hijacked' which I can't read.

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JohnnyD

  • Tuesday 10th July 2012, 1:51pm
  • Bray, England
  • 1500 posts

As Dylan Spicer isn't responding to the issues with 'Hijacked', I'll point out that yahoo appears to have tagged it as an html file.

People, if they can be bothered, can read it after a right click/save Link as...

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Ponderer

  • Tuesday 10th July 2012, 2:00pm
  • England
  • 693 posts
Quote: JohnnyD @ July 10 2012, 1:51 PM BST

As Dylan Spicer isn't responding to the issues with 'Hijacked', I'll point out that yahoo appears to have tagged it as an html file.

People, if they can be bothered, can read it after a right click/save Link as...

Thanks Johhny, I'll give that a go.

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sean knight

  • Tuesday 10th July 2012, 2:09pm
  • England
  • 318 posts

Thanks, I'll read when I get home

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SMComedy

  • Tuesday 10th July 2012, 3:41pm [Edited]
  • Manchester, England
  • 4 posts

HIJACKED - NO

Too much telling not enough showing. There was no reason you couldn't have shown us the robbery/the reasons for it in the time it took you to describe it - would have bumped up the gag rate too. A few wry smiles though, especially giving notes/feedback on how to be a better robber.

edit: I'd like to add that this and a few others I would like to see further drafts of, they just didn't pop for me in their current form.

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sean knight

  • Tuesday 10th July 2012, 8:15pm
  • England
  • 318 posts

Hijacked - The premise has a lot of legs and there are laughs in there but it starts with a bang and fizzles out very quickly as the characters just stand around talking. - No

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evan rubivellian

  • Wednesday 11th July 2012, 9:12am
  • England
  • 672 posts

Just some thoughts on the writing process for Sitcom Trials:

It's got to be a potential 30-minute televised sitcom that could run for at least two series. This means rounded characters, plenty of tension and a world that can generate plots week after week. Many of today's sitcoms, especially the US ones, are fast-paced and feature lots of scenes.

However:-
It's got to work as a ten-minute (more or less) stage show. This means no time for rounded characters, and you can't have lots of scenes. Humour that works on stage has different timing to TV comedy. Let's face it, you've got to please a crowd in a pub.

However:-
It's got to work as a script read by your peers, some of whom will actually be literate. You have to give the illusion of rounded characters, realistic dialogue and a plot that moves forward. Humour that works well on stage may read badly on the page.

Evil! Evil I tell you!

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Kev F

  • Wednesday 11th July 2012, 9:29am [Edited]
  • Bristol, England
  • 689 posts
Quote: evan rubivellian @ July 11 2012, 9:12 AM BST

Just some thoughts on the writing process for Sitcom Trials:

It's got to be a potential 30-minute televised sitcom that could run for at least two series. This means rounded characters, plenty of tension and a world that can generate plots week after week. Many of today's sitcoms, especially the US ones, are fast-paced and feature lots of scenes.

However:-
It's got to work as a ten-minute (more or less) stage show. This means no time for rounded characters, and you can't have lots of scenes. Humour that works on stage has different timing to TV comedy. Let's face it, you've got to please a crowd in a pub.

However:-
It's got to work as a script read by your peers, some of whom will actually be literate. You have to give the illusion of rounded characters, realistic dialogue and a plot that moves forward. Humour that works well on stage may read badly on the page.

Evil! Evil I tell you!

This has long been a "thing" about the Sitcom Trials (and the Sitcom Mission by extension), that the live environment lends itself to certain styles of comedy more than others, and that the short form of our mini sitcoms differs from a 30 minute pilot. And it is inevitable. The short form developed following our very first shows in Bristol in the 90s when we tried staging full half hour pilots (in the show Situations Vacant) and found that some were less good than others. And although a couple of our half hour pieces worked excellently and held the audience's attention throughout, some were less good and, once you were 5 minutes in, you were praying for it to end. So the 10/15 min mini-sitcom on which the audience could vote was born.

The live atmosphere has a lot in common with the studio audience sitcom, which of course not all sitcoms are. I've long said that The Office, as a script, would have died a death in the Sitcom Trials as it relied so heavily on its reality TV treatment and its filmic pacing. Of course, since we began the Trials, there has been an explosion of online opportunities to showcase your filmed sketches so work like that can get a showcase whenever it likes.

This leaves the live stage show with a vital role in testing the sort of comedy writing not suited or designed for a filmic treatment. So, yes, the Sitcom Trials works best as a showcase for studio-audience comedy that's supposed to have audible laughs throughout.

The online script-reading process is a different matter and, again, I have long been aware that some participants are not very good at reading scripts, noticing superficial jokes more than they will notice good characterisation and plotting. In practice, usually, we get so many script reviews in that this balances out and we find enough people who have read the scripts properly. In the past we used to temper the influence of the online voting process by allowing it to select a shortlist of 10 scripts which were then read at a table reading with actors, after which we chose the 5 best suited to performance. In the case of the recent London and Manchester shows we haven't done this, through pressure of time and cast availability, but the Bristol team (who, you will remember wrote all of the last show themselves with no online contributions) are in a position to do that more readily.

So, the Sitcom Trials process has its quirks, its strengths and possibly some weaknesses, but as long as we remain aware of them and learn from them it's a process I'm delighted to be part of. And with our current ongoing programme of shows in the three cities, The Sitcom Trials of 2012 is the most active it's been for a good few years, once more staging more shows and showcasing more sitcoms than any of its distinguished competitors, which can't be bad.

We all have until Saturday midnight to read the scripts on contention for Manchester, so izzy wizzy let's get... no, bad quote, bad bad quote.

Kev F
The Sitcom Trials

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Kev F

  • Thursday 12th July 2012, 9:55am
  • Bristol, England
  • 689 posts

I'm getting through the scripts slowly but surely, I hope you're all having a go too. I've reviewed 16 out of 40 so far and hoping to get the whole lot done before the deadline.

If anyone out there can read, review and vote on the scripts in contention for this month's Trials, it really will help get a good decision on the final selection. Remember, you don't have to read them all. Every Yes, Maybe or No vote you're able to get helps.

The scripts are here: http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/SitsVac/files/Manchester%20Sitcom%20Trials%202012/

Post your votes here on the forum when you've read as many as you can. Deadline midnight Saturday.

Kev F

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