Tag Archive: Sitcom


Short post this week as I’m on a roll and determined to spend as much time as possible on the five year project!

So, in the last couple of weeks major developments have happened. The first episode is almost complete. Which, considering this has been five years coming, is a major step for me! I had a bit of an inspiration burst over Easter and began changing my plans for the pilot. One thing led to another and here I am, close to a full first draft of ep. 1. I’m so excited!

I decided to give my planning the ‘Reset treatment’. Whilst I was writing Reset, I stuck a huge piece of paper to the wall and covered it in post-its – each representing a chapter – which details key points in the plot. I was able to mix these around and throw some away and add new ones as well as get an overall view of where my story is going. It also served as a constant reminder (because it was huge!) that I needed to be working. So, when I sat down at my laptop I realised I needed some visual prompts. I took a piece of paper and sketched out an episode map which showed each characters journey throughout the eight episodes. Having this in front of me has been a great help.

Another planning device I used with Reset was to create a scrapbook of images – whether that be actors who would play characters, key props or pictures of potential settings. So over Easter I created the Big Red File. I split the file into sections, one for each main or recurring character. Each section starts with a collage of images of actors who could play that character, then on the reverse I have the random facts page. The random facts page is a working document which I plan on adding to as I go along. This page has the character’s key information (e.g., full name, DOB, family, etc) as well as any other facts (Such as stories from their childhood or guilty pleasures). The big red file is going to be my bible.

Something which I also found handy when I wrote After Caitlyn was to create a playlist of songs. I’ve not reached that stage yet, but I have jotted down a few songs which could feature.

Getting creative with my planning has definitely spurred the project on and rejuvenated my enthusiasm. It’s like looking at the story with a fresh pair of eyes. I can see what works and what doesn’t, and I’m able to make tweaks and changes, which leaves me very excited! I’d be interested to hear of any other techniques writers use to immerse themselves into their stories and develop their writing.

In the meantime, I’m pressing on with Ep. 1 and my next step is to give it a proper name, as five year project is getting a bit naff.

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With last week’s sad news about the brilliant Victoria Wood, I wanted to share my top five Wood moments. Writer, actress and stand-up comic – her talent was endless and she’s a huge loss to the entertainment world.

Number 5 – Dolly thinks she’s accidentally taken Viagra.

I loved Dinnerladies when I was growing up. I would sneakily stay awake and watch it quietly in my room. I loved the relationships between the characters and, although I was only around ten at the time, I would grow up to recognise those characters in everyday life. Victoria had a skill for creating characters that were so rounded and real. One stand-out moment – and there were almost too many to choose from – is from ‘Christine’ when Dolly thinks she has accidentally taken Viagra after picking up the wrong mug of tea, resulting in a hilarious, warbling, anxiety-ridden tirade from Dolly. I have had the pleasure of knowing a real-life Dolly and I always chuckle to myself and think of her during this scene.

‘What will it do to a woman? Where will it go? What will happen when it gets down there and finds there’s nothing to pump up! It’ll be like a range rover going top speed into a cul-de-sac!’

Brilliant performance from Thelma Barlow, and brilliant writing from Victoria.

Number 4 – ‘I might have to smash your face in with a tin of beans.’

Again, from the episode ‘Christine’, this deadpan delivery from Bren stands for Wood’s talent as an actress as well as a writer. In Bren, she has created a character who we can all empathise with. She’s witty and kind but not without her faults. Bren is down to earth. Everyone knows a Bren. She mixes up words and slips in ‘do-dahs’ and ‘thingmajigs’ like so many people I know (including myself). Bren is continuously thoughtful towards others, even those we who don’t deserve it, like her mother, who constantly takes advantage of her. Bren is the hub of the canteen and an underated comedy character.

Tony: So you’re not pregnant then.

Bren: Not unless sperm can get through a sash window.

Number 3 – The Large Woman in a Cake Shop

I chose Victoria Wood: At it again to study as part of my A Level English Language course. I had to watch the DVD over and over again and write a transcript of it. It was hilarious and even though I had to watch it so many times it never got old and I still laugh about it today. I still think about the following gag whenever I go into a cake shop.

If you’re big in this country, eating is a very shameful thing. You can’t imagine this scenario in England: Big woman goes into a cake shop and says ‘I would like a cake please. It is for me. I am going to eat it myself.’ It couldn’t happen, could it? She would have to go in and say ‘Erm…can I have a cake please? Erm…a woman has collapsed two streets away and, erm, I think it’s a diabetic coma. On the other hand it could be head injuries, in which case, I’ll eat it myself.’

Number 2 – Two Soups

I don’t need to say much about this one. It’s just brilliant. Written by Wood but with cracking performances. Enjoy.

Number 1 – The Ballad of Barry and Freda

Z and I were only singing this last week. Fantastic lyrics and a very catchy tune. Be prepared to have this stuck in your head for the rest of the week. Have a listen, it’s a treat!

It’s amazing how much Victoria has contributed to the entertainment world. She has made me laugh so many times and will always be one of my comedy heroes.

‘How long is this going to take?’ Bobby Fawcett, 2013

I gave those words to a character I’ve been living with for about 5 years and as I read them earlier today I found myself thinking the same thing. How long is this going to take?

I’ve been steadily working on a five-year-long project, but the initial germ of the idea has been cooking away in my brain for about ten years. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear it all pivots around an amateur theatre society.

Having been part of a theatre group for 12 years, I’ve met many characters (many of which are completely bloody bonkers and should never have been introduced to the public) who just wrapped up buckets of writing material and presented it to me with a neat little bow. Whether I was listening to a man drunkenly ramble off outrageous lie after outrageous lie or watching a woman frantically fire proof a pair of knickers (in fear of standing too close to a pyrotechnic), being part of that group was a writers gift. This project was undoubtedly a comedy. It had to be. The material was so ridiculous there was a risk it would be unbelievable unless it was written as a comedy. I envisioned a sort of IT-Crowd-slash-Vicar-of-Dibley style sitcom, with a newbie entering this wacky world of self-obsessed amateurs and pompous, over-stuffed board members who took themselves far too seriously.

For the next four years I made notes of each hilariously bonkers moment or comment so that I could one day combine them into a script. The result is a ten page document listing everything from carnivorous pigs to yoghurt addicts injecting Muller light behind the storage unit and a late night escape from a dogging spot. The characters were 2D, comedy hybrids of people I’d met over the years and, on that level, they worked. But there was something that wasn’t quite right….

Then, last year, something struck me. I continued to read through each unfinished episode, hoping that this wasn’t just funny to me, and trying to work out exactly what the problem was. Then I realised. The story felt stilted and unnatural. It felt fake. It was funny, but this story was lacking heart. It didn’t feel real enough. It felt like a parody of a theatre group and I realised that’s not what I wanted to capture. What made that place special to me was that for all its panto villains and mad people, everyone cared for each other (well…sort of). It was a place where you could find sanctuary (among the madness) when life wasn’t on your side. That’s what I wanted to show.

This wasn’t a sitcom. It was a drama.

I realised the thing my characters were lacking was truth. I’d taken the comedy elements of people I’d met and mashed them into 2D figures of ridicule.  There was no heart. No pulse. Cue a sudden influx of drama. Stressed out Adam suddenly became frustrated with life and on the brink of depression. Cocky, man-magnet Bobby was flirty and sexy on the surface, but hiding a deep self-loathing and a very modern quest for love and acceptance. April, who was once superficial and fake, now hides a fear of the future and grieves for the past. By fleshing out my main cast, I’ve given new life to a project that was starting to grow stale. I’ve realised that with this new tone, the characters can go anywhere.  They can do anything. What I was trying to do before was squash them into a relentlessly laugh-a-minute setting which caged and limited them. Now, they can still be funny, but I’m able to tell their stories properly and, to me anyway, this makes these characters feel so much more real.

So, in answer to Bobby’s question, How long is this going to take?

I’m pleased to say, Not very long at all, now.

I have itchy fingers.

I am itching to write another story. To go on a fresh adventure and get to know some new adventures. The last few months have been pretty hectic and I can’t help but feel I’ve neglected my work. After finishing the first draft of After Caitlyn in September, I’ve re-visited it a couple of times to edit and tweak but whilst I know I should focus my attention on refining that story, my mind can’t help drifting off…..

The bones of After Caitlyn are on paper, it just needs fleshing out. It usually takes me a while to get a story down but I was particularly proud at how speedy I managed to write this. It probably took around two weeks to get the whole first draft down….but after that….I’ve neglected it. This is a writing-disorder I have suffered from in the past.

The work I’m most proud of is Reset, but I cannot get a final edit. It’s huge. It took a good 18 months to write and stands at 64 chapters. The problem I have is each time I come to edit I fix a few chapters and then leave it for a couple of months and by the time I’ve come back….I’ve completely lost track and have to start again. Feeling adventurous last summer, I decided to start planning a sequel. I made a few notes, but then After Caitlyn stole my attention.  When it comes to writing….I’m fickle!

I’ve also had a sitcom project that has been rumbling along for about three years. I’ve updated ideas and written a few scenes along the way but I’m yet to finish a solid episode. The characters in this script fascinate me and I really feel they are the most rounded characters I’ve created. I really think I could have a lot of fun with the material I’ve already collected but for some reason…I just can’t get started!

So my question is, as a writer, is it best to channel your energy finishing each project before moving on to the next? Or should you work on projects as they pop into your mind?  If I relaxed and simply worked on each project when I fancied it, it might take me years to complete something but the work wouldn’t be forced. On the other hand, over the next couple of years I could end up accumulating a laptop full of notes and incomplete documents but not one finished story! Hmm….a severe case of itchy fingers.

Review: Bewitched (1964-1972)

When I was a child, being ill had a very important perk. It meant I got to curl up on the sofa, drink lucozade and watch Bewitched. I loved it! I loved the old-fashioned slapstick humour, magical nose-twitching characters and the madcap plots.

My favourite character was Aunt Clara. On those rare occasions I was allowed to stay at home I would hope for an Aunt Clara appearance. She reminded me of my great-grandma and I found her magical clumsiness very endearing. I’d laugh every time she appeared in the fireplace, covered is soot, and because of her I strongly believe everyone should carry a collection of doorknobs.

A few weeks ago I was rooting through the boxes of DVDs under my bed and stumbled across a couple of Bewitched boxsets. I should explain – the first time I was granted access to a bank account coincided unfortunately with my discovery of amazon and play.com. So, I went through a phase of buying any book and DVD I came across just for the novelty of having it delivered to my door! It’s been a few years since I ventured to my under-the-bed DVD vault, so I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reacquainting myself Bewitched.

Now, 15 years after watching as a child, I can admire it from a different view point. It’s totally camp (which is never a bad thing) but not without its flaws. Some of the plots are little bit clunky –especially in the last half of series five, but that’s probably due to last minute script changes following Dick York’s illness. The main thing I noticed is Darrin’s attitude towards Samantha which is sign of the times. If he told Samantha to behave like a normal wife in 2015 he’d be, quite rightly, sworn at and turned into a worm. Still, I think sixties Samantha is more than capable of holding her own.

Elizabeth Montgomery is amazing. Her comic timing is masterful and she has a nostalgic screwball charm about her. She makes the show.  She is Bewitched and it’s no wonder attempts to re-make have failed (let’s not even talk about the 2005 movie. *shudders*)

I think Bewitched is the underdog of sitcoms and doesn’t get enough praise. Clever, humble and with a wealth of fantastic supporting characters portrayed by truly talented actors (Agnes Moorehead, David White and Marion Lorne to name just three) Bewitched is certainly, in my eyes, a classic that should be re-visited over and over again.