What is the perfect sitcom pilot? The answer, of course, is the one that sells. But how do you get there? In this brief overview, I’ll give you the three elements that will make a network exec sit up and take notice.
So buckle up!
The first element is a great story. What does that mean? It means your main character has a problem that he or she struggles to solve. Never lose sight of this very simple fact. It’s the glue that will hold the entire show together. Add an original setting and unusual activities, and your sitcom will be on the right track.
The second element is memorable characters. In comedies you have either a sane hero surrounded by crazy people (think Seinfeld) or you have a crazy hero surrounded by sane people (think Mork & Mindy). Choose whichever kind you are going to write and build your characters accordingly.
The final—and equally crucial—element is … wait for it … wait for it … jokes! That’s right, your sitcom must be funny, and it must be top-shelf funny, funnier than your competitors’ scripts, and that is no small task. Now, if you’re a story person like me, you may want to find a comedy person to work with. They may not understand story, but they can come up with the jokes. This is a very common way to work and is why you find so many comedians in writers’ rooms—because everybody has their own strengths.
Incorporate all three of these elements—and do it well—and any executive reading your pilot will say, “Oh my God, I can think of so many episodes. This series will run for years!”
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz