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6 Screenwriting Lessons from Parks and Recreation

A key part of writing for television is watching television. And learning from it.
Screenwriting lessons from tackles series past and present, analyzing them through the prism of screenwriting.

It was only a few months ago that NBC’s Parks and Recreation concluded its seven-season run. From absurd government action to now-iconic characters, the show offered us some of the funniest moments in recent television history.
Time to take a look at this amazing mockumentary-style comedy. Because time is money. Money is power. Power is pizza. And pizza is knowledge.

[As usual, I’ll be talking about the series as a whole. I highly recommend you watch the entire show before reading this post—it’s worth it.]

Lesson 1: Don’t let a format define your story

When Parks and Recreation started airing in 2009, a large amount of viewers quickly dismissed it as a “carbon copy” of NBC’s The Office. It didn’t help that both were basically made by the same people. Leslie was reduced as Michael Scott’s dimwitted protagonist clone, and the tone of the show was being described as “mean-spirited”. Its first season was promptly ridiculed and set aside.
Six years later, Parks now stands as one of the greatest mockumentary-style comedies ever to appear on TV. Sure, there have been a few lackluster episodes, but its (somewhat-)handheld format never shackled the series. One could even argue the series thrived in spite of it.
Co-creator Michael Schur explained back in 2011 why the show used the specific format:

We wanted this to be a mockumentary show because in the world of government, the difference between what goes on behind closed doors and what people present to the public is a huge issue. Plus, the single-camera format can be alienating, and the talking heads help us relate directly to the audience, and provide breaks in the action.

Notice how there is no mention of the mockumentary style as a narrative component. The idea is (or was) about contrasting what we see and what is said, not experiencing a fake documentary. This specific mockumentary format is only a “take” on the government world. It isn’t meant to be a story element in of itself (unlike, again, The Office).
Forget using the meta structure of a documentary crew as one of your plotlines. The hell with confessionals rooted in realism. We were treated with awkward and multiple angles, jump-cuts, and a less voyeuristic approach overall. Hell, we even saw our characters evolve right up to the year 2048. As long as it services them as well as their story, there is no “real” reason not have a camera present. In fact, the series almost completely abandoned its format in the latter-season episode “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” (7×10).
At the end of the day, Parks and Recreation was able (and willing) to grow out of The Office‘s shadow because it transcended the format it was born in. Similar style. Completely different world.
Learn how to move past the limitations of your own structure and style, or thrive within them.

Lesson 2: Supporting characters are as important as your main cast

Many comparisons can be made between Parks and FOX’s The Simpsons: talking heads (Perd Hapley/Kent Brockman), sex scandal-embroiled politicians (Dexhart/Quimby), rival towns (Pawnee/Springfield vs. Eagleton/Shelbyville). Both shows also brilliantly use the mob mentality. Citizens are easily swayed to vote against their own best interests on multiple occasions.
The overarching commonality however is that both shows excel in making their respective towns three-dimensional. Parks always tries to deepen Pawnee (and Eagleton), especially when it helps both story and humor. JJ’s Diner is as identifiable with Parks as Apu’s Kwik-E-Mart is to The Simpsons. The Gryzzl startup (and its CEO) were objects of ridicule as well as catalysts for conflict in the final two seasons. We learned of Dennis Feinstein’s existence several seasons before Jason Mantzoukas started inhabiting the role (in “Indianapolis” (3×06)). The same holds true for the cavalcade of recurring characters. The series excels with them for one simple reason: they are not just obstacles or sources of conflicts for our protagonists, nor are they just jokes in of themselves. They are shades of this world. They are living and breathing Pawnee citizens.
Never underestimate your secondary characters. In fact, use them as a continuously-untapped layer to enrich your world and stories.

Lesson 3: Know when to move on

Raise your hand if Mark Brendanawicz was your favorite character on the show. Probably half of you just said: “Who the hell is–Oooh, the guy from season one. Brendanaquits!” Yes, Brendanaquits. If you’ll recall, Leslie’s long-standing crush on Mark was promptly swept under the rug right after the first season because it didn’t seem to work for the writers. The character himself made his departure following “Freddy Spaghetti” (2×24). He was supposed to come back, like the real-life city planner he was based on, but I guess that didn’t work out as planned. Either way, the voluntary decision to exile the character shows that Parks and Recreation was always willing to move on. It always tried to stay fresh and avoid some perpetual status quo.
Quoting Michael Schur on this concept:

All of these decisions fall under the general heading of character development. My own preference is that everyone on the show should be in a different place at the end of a season from where they were at the beginning of the season. I don’t like shows where you catch an episode in repeats and it could literally be from season 2 or season 8. People change in real life, and I think they should on TV as well.

Another example is the “pit plot“. It’s an iconic storyline in the show, yet it barely lasted two seasons. Most comedies would have dragged on the plot for the duration of the show. Instead, the area promptly got filled in year two so we could move on to newer, better stories. Shows should never be afraid to evolve.

Lesson 4: Take risks within relationships—when it makes character sense

We just talked about how Parks was able to keep a fresh pace with its plot. The same can be said with the many relationships in the show. When April and Andy got married out of the blue during “Andy and April’s Fancy Party” (3×09), it caught off guard everyone (including viewers). This wasn’t just because it was a joke. The shock came from the fact that the wedding actually happened. Even better, it completely fit the relationship in question and the characters’ impulsive nature. Continuing with Michael Schur’s own comments:

All we knew was that we wanted to avoid the standard-issue TV romance plots: fights, other men/women driving them apart, and so on. We just thought about who they were – two impulsive goofballs who don’t approach their lives in a responsible, adult manner – and decided, what the hell? What if they just make a rash decision and get hitched? As soon as the idea came up we felt it made sense, and as a bonus, the stakes would subsequently be higher for every story we told about their relationship.

Herein lies one of the great things behind the writing of Parks and Recreation: realistic character development. The idea is to always organically push the characters in their logical direction instead of having them run circles. Ben’s understated (and perfect) marriage proposal to Leslie in “Halloween Surprise” (5×05) is another great way to show a leap with two central characters.
When it comes to your own series relationships, commit forward instead of taking a step back. There is rarely (if ever) a need to stagnate. Fresh paint needs time to dry, not a TV show (with exception).

Lesson 5: Make Flanderization work for, not against you

“Flanderization” is a famous television trope that describes the act of “taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character.” As you might have guessed, the trope got its name from The Simpsons‘ Ned Flanders. He initially was a friendly neighbor and attentive father, but has over the years become solely defined by his obsession with religion.
Much like one now thinks of “religious zealot” with Flanders, you could define most scenes with Parks‘ Ron as featuring an “anti-governmental meat-eating secretive woodsman”. The same could also apply to Andy and “lovable idiot man-child”, although it really wasn’t until the beginning of his life outside of Ann’s house that he became a kinder person. So, how did the show avoid “Flanderization”? Well, it didn’t. It used it to its own advantage.
An entire mythology was built around Ron’s enigmatic aura. Sometimes it got reduced to “steak and eggs”, but when it worked it built the character instead of diminish it. Andy similarly had layers developed around being a simple goofball (Burt Tyrannosaurus Macklin and Johnny Karate being two persona extensions).
It could even be argued that the characters went through a “reverse Flanderization” process. The characters were more defined by a singular tone in the first season than in later years. Andy was a lazy and clingy ex-boyfriend, Leslie was an (even more) obnoxious Tracy Flick (or, as described above, reminiscent of Michael Scott), April was, like, whatever man, and Ron said two words.
A bad way of dealing with the trope is to not only define a character by that one aspect, but specifically limit him/her with that layer. Parks not only embraced those characterizations, but went deeper. The “good way” isn’t necessarily about making the trait less “over-the-top”, it is about humanizing it in the process. In other words, you do not reduce a character down to the trait, you expand on it.

Lesson 6: Being positive does not have to mean being sappy

Earnest comedy and positive relationships. Two of Parks and Recreation‘s unsung strengths. While everyone is trying to add some form of edge to their show, this NBC comedy never shied away from having actually nice characters (or silly ones) with heart. And making it all matter in the end.
Even with Leslie’s intense care for everyone she loves (in planning birthdays or other surprises), that “crazy” intensity was never played against her on the show. Parks rarely (if ever) undercut the true sincere emotions of characters for cheap laughs. Ann or Ben were often overwhelmed by Leslie’s antics, however none of them were the butts of jokes. In “Anniversaries” (6×14), we smiled with Leslie at Ben’s awestruck expression while he was sitting on the Iron Throne (one of the truer portrayals of a nerd), but we were all playing (including Leslie, trying to make him happy). Everyone was “in on it”.
A lot of the relationships on the show also led to affairs of the heart. Every major character ends up being linked to a key romantic pair by series end: Ben and Leslie, Chris and Ann, April and Andy, Ron and Diane, Tom and Natalie Morales’ Lucy, Jerry and his wife Gayle (a pre-series romance putting him at odds with the rest of the cast—and played that way), Rita and Keegan-Michael Key’s Joe. Even Craig finds “true love” in the series finale.
In that respect, the show’s true success is playing those romances not as sappy ideals, but as realistic relationships (albeit kind ones). Just because they are positive does not make them impossible. Ben and Leslie, the closest lovers on the show, still have to deal with their triplets (and Jennifer Barkley). Chris and Ann’s romance is never portrayed as “true love”, only the most ideal match for their baby.
If anything, Parks and Recreation is a great example of a show that embraces its sincerity and heart without compromising humor, story or character. Refreshing, in an age of gritty everything.

What to take from the show

In a word: character. If you don’t underestimate the heart of the series, then the relationships you create will carry the momentum forward. This is also why there’s no reason to be scared of big story moves, or to be anxious about dropping stale storylines. As long as you fulfill the characters’ potential, and develop them properly, you can’t betray the spirit of your show.

7 Screenwriting lessons from Farscape

A key part of writing for television is watching television. And learning from it.
Screenwriting lessons from tackles series past and present, analyzing them through the prism of screenwriting.

I’ve been on a sci-fi binge recently, so I decided to rewatch one of the greatest (and perhaps underrated) science-fiction series of all time: Rockne S. O’Bannon’s awesome Farscape.
It’s fun, it’s dark, it’s light, it’s amazing. Both serialized and stand-alone, the show has revolutionized, in more ways than one, the genre it was set in.
Almost ten years have past since it ended, but the legacy lives on.

[I’ll be talking about the show as a whole, so I highly recommend you watch the whole show before reading this post — it’s worth it.]

Lesson 1: Serialization and stand-alone stories are not mutually exclusive

Perhaps one of the most controversial lessons to take away from Farscape is this one.
The first season’s first half is considered by many to be the worst. As always, the writers were still figuring out the characters, so it makes sense.
Until perhaps its third season, Farscape wasn’t overtly serialized, but it still kept small amounts of mythology spread throughout. In other words, it was always giving viewers information (big or small), even during seemingly stand-alone episodes.
You could say that anything about alien characters’ pasts is de facto mythological, but I’m here talking about factual hints or stories enhancing the season-long narrative.
The first season built up Crais and introduced Scorpius. The second season developed the relationships and continued the characters’ individual journeys.
You still need to have episodes accessible to new viewers, at first, but keep creating the launchpads for your bigger, upcoming stories.

Lesson 2: Entertain!

As much as we like to think we’re providing humanity with the greatest of cultural gifts, television is still, first and foremost, an entertainment medium.
Science-fiction can be a super-serious drama, but it can (and should) be entertaining.
Think back to Farscape‘s craziest, greatest hours of TV. Chances are it’s something you can’t imagine other sci-fi show to do. Hell, they even did a cartoon episode! Obviously, this may not be something you want to incorporate in your show, but playfulness should be.
Crichton also offers countless opportunities to entertain the viewers. He’s an odd duck thrown into a world he has no understanding of. You don’t have to create an Abed-like character that drops references left and right. Making someone you can relate with, and also someone fun, can be achieved other ways.
Don’t be dull. Be joyful.

Lesson 3: Never reset a psychological wound

As Farscape viewers will remember, Scorpius tortures Crichton in “Nerve” (1×18).
It’s shocking, disturbing, and, more importantly, impactful.
The show doesn’t pull that kind of story for cheap thrills or just raise stakes.
Long after the episode is over, the psychological toll is still present. Embedded forever into John Chrichton’s psyche.
Instead of forgetting about it the next episode, the show used this pivotal episode as a fundamental shift in Crichton’s persona. From then on, he’s unhinged, borderline crazy. Our perception is completely changed, and so is he.
In fact, this aspect of Crichton becomes a defining value of his character.
No one forgets the “Crackers Don’t Matter” episode (2×04) which introduces us to the lovely Harvey (the Faux/Mind Scorpius in John’s head). This is a very different approach from all sci-fi shows that came before Farscape. Just take a look at Star Trek TNG‘s very own “Chain of Command, Part II“. Picard is physically and psychologically tortured by Cardassians. The next episode, it’s a whole tabula rasa. A reset.
You can check an example of “Crazy Crichton” in this clip from “I Do, I Think” (2×12). You won’t see a Starfleet captain behaving like that (well…maybe Sisko).
Psychological scars last as much as physical ones, if not longer. It’s much harder to “fix” the mind than a flesh wound.
TV shows often forget that. You shouldn’t.

Lesson 4: Characters, not (stereo)types

Too many science-fiction shows reduce their characters, and alien races, into stereotypes.
I’m a big fan of Star Trek, but the early series tended to summarize each race with a particular characteristic. Klingons = warrior, Vulcans = logical, Ferrengi = greedy. Yes, those traits became three-dimensional as the franchise progressed (especially through DS9). But you could still see them written across their foreheads.
Going back to Farscape, you may summarize Rygel as “that puppet that farts helium”, but that is a huge disservice to the character. Even a few minutes into Farscape, you instantly know that he has more depth than other, actual human characters from other shows.
All Farscape characters have specific needs, and wants:
Ka D’Argo wants his son, Jothee, back. John Crichton wants to go home. Aeryn Sun wants to know where she belongs. Rygel wants to become the Dominar he once was. And Zhaan wants to reunite with Eiffel 65.
A show’s strength depends on the strength of the people. Even in a story-based world, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of “real” characters over archetypes.

Lesson 5: Embrace relationships

One of the most damaging running plotlines a TV show can do is a “will they, won’t they.”
This isn’t Moonlighting anymore. And such a thread has been done to, well, death. At this point, the horse getting beaten is merely the remnants of a disheveled carcass. Gross.
The point here is, Farscape avoided that trap.
Relationships are inherently dramatic. Sexual tensions are not (anymore).
Crichton and Aeryn Sun “get together” pretty early on in the series. In fact, the show is usually at its best when they are together.
It’s very hard to sustain any kind of tension between two leads, especially over several seasons. The audience wants to see some progression, and you can’t maintain a constant status quo. The two people are attracted to each other, and spend a ton of time together. There’s no real reason to keep them apart.
One of Farscape‘s ballsiest move is, without a doubt, the cloning of John Crichton.
As a refresher, Crichton in “Thanks For Sharing” (3×07) gets doubled. One stays on Moya with D’Argo, the other ends up on Talyn with Aeryn.
The show ends up having its cake, and eating it too. In other words, it does both sides of the coin at the same time.
One Crichton ends up with Aeryn, but then he dies. The lonely Crichton on Moya is reunited with his love, but she has grieved for her loss, and has moved on.
It’s genuinely heart-wrenching. And it works. By killing one of the Crichton after he got together with Aeryn, you still have both a tragic “shipper” ending, and a stomach punch when she comes back, alone. You come back to a “will they, won’t they” plotline, but the reset makes it more powerful and interesting than ever.

Lesson 6: Accept the genre

Farscape was one of the last great space-operas on TV.
Science-fiction will always be a metaphor of the present by way of the future (at least mostly). Beyond that, it’s escapism. As much as I love Battlestar Galatica, the “grounded” and “serious” aspect of the series is completely different from the legitimately fun vibe of Farscape. It is a trend right now that fiction needs to be “dark” and “gritty,” which does make Farscape the last successful sci-fi show of its kind (at least for now).
Most of the BSG drama could be put on, say, a modern-day military ship, and it’d pretty much be the same plot. Tough luck doing that with Farscape.
If you only glance at it, it’s “a bunch of puppets”. Yeah, and Buffy‘s vampires are “a bunch of guys in weird makeup”.
The truth is, the show is more than that. It’s inventive, and it’s alien. A rare sight on TV nowadays.
Why am I going on a mini-tirade over this? Because the show was at its peak when it embraced wholeheartedly its genre roots. There are tons of sci-fi tropes out there, but it doesn’t mean you can’t play with them.
Farscape is genuine about the way it uses them.
In “A Human Reaction” (1×16), Crichton seemingly returns to Earth through a wormhole. Unsurprisingly, it’s all an illusion (created by aliens). The illusion is destroyed when he tries to go to the ladies restroom (since he has no memories of ever being there in the real world). In a later episode, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (2×15), the same scenario seems to be happening (or at least Crichton thinks it is). He doesn’t think twice about it, and goes straight to the ladies’ room to test the theory.
Farscape understands that you probably have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things science-fiction, and it plays with your expectations. Aliens don’t speak English, so the show creates “translator microbes”.
It embraced the genre it was in, and subverted it.

Lesson 7: Get on with the story

Don’t tread water (or space). Farscape wasn’t afraid of big changes when they needed to be done.
When it happened, it feelt earned. Characters don’t always emerge unscathed. And they die when it makes sense. Crais sacrifices himself and Talyn at the end of Season 3 because there is no other way out of this mess. The title of the double-parter is, in fact, “Into the Lion’s Den”. With a name like that, you can’t expect to get out the same way you got in.
Earlier in that same season, the show’s usual format somewhat changed when the two Crichton separated. Even-numbered episodes are spent with the Talyn crew, and odd-numbered ones with the Moya people. The paradigm has shifted, which creates a more dynamic way of telling the “same old” stories. For all intents and purposes, the formula is relatively similar to what it’s always been. But it’s fresh. And the story has evolved.
Another, greater example, is the middle of Season 4. The entire crew gets to Earth. For real. The show stops playing game with one of its most crucial plotlines, and the biggest one for Crichton’s evolution.
It’s crazy to think that something so big, something most people take for granted as a “series-ender”, is in fact done midway through Season 4.
You don’t need a major twist every episode (see Lesson 1), but you still need a continuous story with real stakes.

What to take from the show

Be audacious, and bodacious, with your story and your characters. Don’t be afraid to make bold moves that will have a resonance within your show, and with your viewers. Make an impact. And have fun while doing it.

5 Screenwriting lessons from Friends

A key part of writing for television is watching television. And learning from it.
Screenwriting lessons from tackles series past and present, analyzing them through the prism of screenwriting.

It has been almost a decade since NBC’s Friends bowed out from our screens.
As the Blu-Ray/HD remasters of the show came out in the past few months, I decided to re-watch all ten seasons of one of the greatest television sitcoms in history.
It may appear dated at first glance, but the humor is still fresh, and the comedy lives on.

Lesson 1: Sitcom is about situation comedy

It seems a lot of contemporary comedies forget the very concept behind their existence.
As much as I enjoy 30 Rock, or even Big Bang Theory, a substantial portion of the jokes and humor is very derivative. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (in small doses), but when all you can offer is references and pop-culture callbacks, you’re missing out on the actual definition of the genre you’re in. Situation Comedy.
Another upside to limiting references is, simply put, increased playback value. The content ends up being very accessible to a wide audience. If you don’t know anything about the Hunger Games trilogy (either now or in ten years), you may not be entertained by the recent Community episode. Friends was perhaps one of the most “sitcom” sitcoms. You don’t need a pop-culture dictionary to “get it.” A lot of the humor of the show stemmed from interesting and/or comedic situations between the various characters. In other words, life.
One of the best episodes of the series is undoubtedly “The One Where Everybody Finds Out.” To recap, Monica and Chandler have had a semi-secret relationship and have been trying to hide it from the other friends. As the title of the episode indicates (spoiler alert), everyone ends up finding out about the couple. The real power of the show is to turn what amounts to a TV trope (friends trying to hide their secret romantic relationship) into a legitimately funny and fresh concept. The idea is not new, but the execution is ridiculously fun. There’s a key scene in the show where Phoebe and Chandler are testing each other out to see who knows what about the secret, and we (the audience) know the truth. In that moment, the laughs come from the imbroglio within the situation. We know, they know, but no one wants to admit it. Comedy in the situation. Which brings us to my next point…

Lesson 2: Humor must make way to emotion

An often overlooked facet of comedies is the emotional component. The climax of the Friends scene I just mentioned is not the jokes milked from the concept (Phoebe v. Chandler), rather the honest truth behind the scene: Chandler’s true feelings towards Monica. As Phoebe is about to kiss Chandler, he finally admits that he is actually in love with Monica. The comedic situation turns into a pivotal “can’t-miss” moment based on the characters. All of this comedic build-up is meaningless if it is not attached to something real. You can make as many jokes about Chandler being gay, but they’re rooted to the character’s insecurities with women. Without the emotional baggage (and out of this context), they may seem childish (if not downright offensive).
Truth in characters also means truth in emotions. If we look at another comedy, Modern Family is very successful in part thanks to its emotional resonance. People can recognize themselves (or their family) in the Pritchetts. The same can be said about our “Friends.” We can engage with their stories, and lives, because most likely we have lived through similar experiences. In ten seasons, it would be hard not to come up with a single example.

Lesson 3: Character arcs surpass story arcs

It may seem redundant with the previous lesson, but I thought it was important to distinguish emotional/character moments in scenes versus full-blown arcs over the course of several episodes/seasons. More importantly, it may seem counter-intuitive to disregard story arcs, yet it is especially true for sitcoms that, in the long run, characters prevail over story. A multi-cam, by its very definition, has a much more limited scope than its single-cam counterpart (location, visuals, production, etc.). This means that choices have to be made from the get-go (i.e. the script) about how the story is going to unfold. It then makes perfect sense that the focus will end up being on the characters rather than, say, the locale.
What you end up remembering from Friends is Ross and Rachel’s on-and-off tumultuous relationship throughout the years, not the many (fancy) jobs of Rachel. You remember Chandler’s evolution from man-child to husband. Sure, you may fondly look back on “that one trip to England” (aka “The One with Ross’s Wedding”), but what sticks is the pay-off from a character’s stand-point (in this case, Chandler and Monica beginning a relationship). “The One After the Superbowl” is often derided and considered one of the worst episodes because of this very issue. No one cared about the stunt-casting and crazy LA peripeties. Ultimately, small-scale wins.
Does that mean you should just abandon story arcs? Hell no. One arc does not mean you overlook the other. They are both interconnected. Context is important within a comedy, you need a story before you get to the point of it. Where the distinction lies is simply the reason why viewers will be watching your show. Although it may be fun to follow Phoebe’s wacky adventures, what we care about is her reactions to said adventures.

Lesson 4: Don’t be dependent on the laugh-track

One of the reasons given behind the seeming decline of classic multi-camera sitcoms in the last decade has been the over-usage of the laugh-track. More specifically, as a crutch to the constant jokes ([insert laugh]). Yes, the show is filmed in front of a live audience, but laugh-tracks are used. In fact, after watching a decade’s worth of Friends, I started noticing halfway through the show very noticeable, particular, recurring laughs (also used now in How I Met Your Mother). Are people trying to over-compensate for something?
It is important to note here that there is a difference between relying on live audience and relying on a laugh-track. Multi-camera sitcoms are re-written on the fly to suit the audience’s appreciation of the humor. More times than not, laugh-tracks are used to impress upon you that this moment is funny, and you’re wrong for not laughing (Peter Griffin would say that it insists upon itself). Although one of the kings of laugh-tracks, Friends used it sparingly to reinforce genuinely comedic moments.
The content of a multi-camera sitcom should be tailored, not to coincide with the “beat” of a subsequent laugh, but simply to its context. In other words, you should write a script without thinking about where the laugh-track would go. It may sound obvious, but I know a few people who picture the finished product in their mind while writing it, which may end up being a derailing element.
Write what entertains you, not what you think others will be entertained by.

Lesson 5: Theatricality!

If you think about it, the format of a multi-camera situation comedy seems fairly odd (within a television mind-frame). “Live” fiction taped in front of a live audience which is re-written on the fly, then edited and finally broadcast for the world to see. In truth, a multi-cam is the closest analogous art-form to actual theater. I would argue that classic sitcoms nowadays have “lost” this idea and are focusing on, say, puns or references rather than theatricality (see the first lesson learned).
As we’ve seen, Friendstour de force was that, on top of its running storylines and other clever jokes, the entire framework of the show (especially after its first couple of seasons) truly revolved around the interaction between the characters and with the audience. This went beyond the simple comedic situations. The clearest case of that is undoubtedly Ross’ antics. It may be hit or miss for you (perhaps even over-done in the second half of the series), but its importance to the character and the show’s humor is undeniable. The bumbling professor’s physicality, the way he interacts with his surroundings, or express his sentiments, are all part of his own theatricality. This may seem like something that is entirely dependent on the actor(s) and the directing, but the reality is that much of it is relevant to writing. More specifically, the scenery and set-up. A talented actor will enhance the content and bring to life a character that should be inherently funny on the page. You too can use the stage, on your page.

What to take from the show

The key to a successful multi-camera sitcom, both on a creative and popular level, seems simple: stay true to your stories, stay true to your dialogue, and stay true to your emotions. Play with the situation, the characters, and the audience. Humor can be everlasting if, even taken out of its context, laughs can be had.