Pop Culture, Storytelling, TV Talking

Old SitComs that inspired me to study ScreenWriting

The SitComs that made me want to be a TV writer and how my American dreams were builded as those stories represented America for me at that time.

I’m absolutely a sucker for American Situation Comedies, the Sitcoms. Back in 2002, when we first got cable on TV, I used to spend hours and hours, just enjoying my time with the shows and trying to understand the jokes.

I loved my TV so much, I got to retake my second year of High School, because instead of studying, I watched tv endlessly.  The “Canned Goods” type of Sitcom, as my mom used to say. What she meant was the comedy shows that had all the same format, and the laughs at the end of each joke.

At that time, I had just started English Classes. Years later, when I applied for Creative Writing School, that’s what I intended to learn, how to write scripts and develop a show was always on my mind. 

On Creative Writing For the Entertainment Bussiness, at Full Sail University, we had two classes on Writing for TV, and on the first one, the teacher asked us, what we would like to write. We had two choices: Drama, which is about 60 minutes, or Comedy, which is about 30 minutes.

The first thing we learned was 1 minute on screen is equivalent to 1 page of the script. So I had no doubts I would choose Comedy for an array of different reasons. 

First, I watched plenty of Multi-Camera shows my entire life, and I still do. Second, all the shows are based on the same premises. It’s either a family, a group of friends, a workplace environment, a school/college. It’s easier to develop something you are familiar with.

The teacher gave us a few options to write a spec script, based on a show that was on the air, and my choice was Brooklyn 99. Even though it’s not multi-camera, it falls in all the comedy categories.

TV writing or Web series writing is what I enjoy doing, besides the writing for tv classes being very demanding; when I visited New York Film Academy Film School, I understood why. It’s all business. They will crush your ideas and dreams to make it profitable for them.  

Years and years of watching the same type of show gave me some type of comfort and authority when I talk about it. When I decided to write this post, I knew, on the top of my head, the shows that I wanted to write about. One thing I realize after quickly coming up with the list, is all the shows have almost the same premises. The broken American Dream, lived by Americans itself. I never understood because all I could see was how good those characters had. 

These shows are also older, your chances to remember them are greater if you are over 30. 

According to Jim (2001-2009) 

Jim Belushi as a nonchalant dad was really on point. Jim is a suburban dad and raises a family in a Chicago suburb. “According to Jim”, is also based on family structure and it was on air for 8 seasons from 2001 to 2007. Married to Cheryl, Jim, and has to deal also with her two chaotic siblings Dana and Andy. Who are always there to plot something against him. As the show developed its season, we see the older girl, Ruby becoming a teen, the dialogues between her and Jim are sharp. As in the scenes between Gracie and her uncle Andy. 

That was one of the first sitcoms I’ve ever watched, until that point it was all Friends and Full House reruns.

Gilmore Girls (2001- 2007) 

I’m not crying, you crying.

Definitely not a SitCom, but a show that wroth sharing. Rory’s passions for books, Lorelai references for all the pop culture, and the idea that love conquers all, as long as you have each other. I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls since 2002, and yes, I’m team, Jess. This is the kind of show that even nothing happens on the episode, I’d still watch it. The characters are so compelling that you could just watch the dialogue unfolds without thinking about what’s next. I learned at writing school, that you don’t need to show much information on the characters, more is less. You just have to show a good and dynamic dialogue. Make the audience participate like a friend, who is watching but can’t be heard. 

Everybody Loves Raymond (1996-2005)

My mother in law said she didn’t want glasses like mine, because she didn’t want to look like a Witch. 🧐 I wish I was kidding.

The show is really funny, but then you realize you are living it, it kinds messes you up. Ray’s overprotective mom, Marie, who lives across the street, the dad who seems to be living on a planet of his own, a dumb brother, and Ray’s wife, Debra, in the middle of all that. The show is hilarious and shows these family problems that we try get over it, but most of the time, we just have to deal with them.  

8 simple rules (for dating my teenage daughter) (2002-2005)

A dad and his teenage daughters, navigating the nuances of having to deal with all the discoveries and all the drama that goes inside of the house, during those years. Kayle Cuoco’s Bridget, give me the idea of the spoiled American teenager, full of privileges. While her sister was the Ugly Duckling.

The actor who played the dad, John Ritter, died at the beginning of the second season, of a heart attack and after that, they couldn’t go much further with the story. The show ended at the end of the third season, after recasting David Spade as the cousin and Cate’s dad, played by James Garner. I don’t think I finished watching the last season, because in Brazil, sometimes the tv cable didn’t buy it to be exhibit there.  

Grounded for Life (2001-2005)

Again, a show about an American family, who had kids at a young age, and struggle to raise them. Watching it in Brazil, I saw them having a great life. I rather am poor in America than in my own country. The show had a typical American family, that balance it off each other, has a sneaky and hilarious older daughter, creating all the storyline for the show.

How young parents, raise kids with the help of other family members. The uncle, the grandpa, and the neighbors. I will never forget the episode where Lily, the daughter, found some herbs and thought it was weed. She smokes it while her parents worry, watching her thinking she is getting high when she is smoking basil.  

Jane The Virgin (2014-2019)

The most inspiring Latinxs tv show from the past years. They broke barriers, and Gina Rodrigues gave Jane the most authentic Latina character I’ve ever seen. We usually see the Latino community represented in a specific way, always with certain mannerisms and cliche acting. Jane the Virgin just shows us that it’s possible to write those characters without being derogatory.

The undocumented immigrant grandma, Jane’s mom Xiomara and Jane, who through all the chapters showed how to find love, keep the love, lose the love, while trying to find ways to make it on a writing career. The show episodes are told in Chapter, like a Novella, adding absurdity, dramatic flashbacks, and montages. Rogerio, Jane’s father as the eccentric telenovela superstar.

When Abuelita told her story and why she remained undocumented after all those years, I cried. It hits too close to home. 

American family structured and how it was portrayed

I guess what I was missing while watching all those shows was family structure. That’s probably why I got obsessed with it. Not until much later, TV started showing different families, and what they are consisted of. In my teenage years, my mom and my dad were broken up and my dad lived in a different State. My aunt lived with me and my mom, so she could help to raise me, and with the bills. My family structure was different. 

Do you have an old show that you keep coming back to? Let me know in the comments what influenced your writing style!

Stay cool! Stay healthy!

J.G.Snelly

3 thoughts on “Old SitComs that inspired me to study ScreenWriting”

  1. This is how I got into screenwriting actually. It was my extreme love for sitcoms and I still watch a ton of them even though they’re not really the popular thing to watch anymore. My earliest memories was of watching them on the ABC black TGIF. I too have an affinity for the multi cam but I watch the single cams too. Do you miss the days of the video taped sitcoms or are you okay with the use of film? My top 10 are 1. Seinfeld
    2. Family Matters
    3. The Wonder Years (dramedy but I love it)
    4. Fresh Prince
    5. Married With Children
    6. Wings
    7. Boy Meets World
    8. Cheers
    9. Malcolm in The Middle
    10. King of Queens

  2. This is actually how I got into screenwriting. It was my extreme love for sitcoms. My earliest memories were of watching the ones on the ABC TGIF block. I also have an affinity for the multi cams but I like the single cam ones too. Do you miss the video taped ones or are you okay with them being filmed? My top 10 are in no particular order
    1. Seinfeld
    2. Family Matters
    3. The Wonder Years (dramedy but I love it)
    4. Fresh Prince
    5. Married With Children
    6. Wings
    7. Boy Meets World
    8. Cheers
    9. Malcolm in The Middle
    10. King of Queens

    Currently running through Newhart and 3rd Rock From The Sun. What are you favorites?

    1. I’m currently watching Schitts’ Creek and I’m loving it! 3rd rock from the sun its always on rerun at my house. Every time I have to write an older character, I think about John Lithgow! I have a bit of petpeeve with Boy Meets World, but I enjoyed for the most part. I like New Girl too. There are so many!

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