There are two types of sitcom pilots. The first is the concept pilot. In this kind of pilot, we meet the characters for the first time. For example, in Frasier, Frasier returns to his hometown and takes a job as a radio psychologist. In addition, his father moves in with him. The main character brings us into a new world, and we all get to know it together.
The other kind of pilot is the premise pilot. In this kind of pilot, we meet the characters in medias res—that is, we drop in on them in an ongoing situation. In Cheers, Sam already has the bar, he has his bar denizens, and then Diane comes crashing in, and she provides for conflict and complications. But Sam remains the main character.
So, what type of pilot are you writing? This depends on the premise you’ve selected.
If you’re at all unclear, I suggest that you write two short paragraphs about your sitcom, one as if it were a concept pilot, the other as if it were a premise pilot. This will give you some insight into the best choice for you, and will help you when you are take the next step: finding your story.
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz