Baby/Marriage

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Overpaid

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Jan 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/2/97
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In article <IJBall-0201970925360001@mac_rbk_3.chem.ucla.edu>,
IJB...@aol.com (Ian J. Ball) wrote:

>Most Hollyowood TV writers just seem unable to relate to writing
>storylines for happily married/monogomus people. There *are* exceptions:
>"Mad About You", "7th Heaven", etc. But mostly, when TV writers try to add
>a marriage or a baby to a show, they *choke* because they just can't
>relate to it. So the shows suffer. This is *especially* true of sitcom
>writers.
>
>Or at least, that's my theory...
>--

Well, everyone's entitled to a theory...

However, you're dead wrong. I've been married 10 years, with two kids --
I've written Murphy Brown, Grace Under Fire, Cybill, and many other shows
with single/divorced characters. Most of the people I work with are married
and monogamous.

Here's the problem: There just isn't that much you can write about a
happily married couple -- there has to be conflict to make a story
interesting. There are plenty of happily married, monogamous people with
kids on ABC's TGIF shows -- but do you want to watch them? Even Mad About
You has had to resort to a near breakup and a pregnancy .

But once the baby comes, watch out. I was on Murphy Brown the year she had
her baby. I was really excited about what this could mean for the
character, and I wrote an episode about the conflict she feels between
pursuing her career and caring for her child ("Midnight Plane to Paris").
However, at the end of that season, network testing discovered that people
were not interested in seeing Murphy as a mother -- they wanted to see
Murphy being Murphy -- so the kid was shoved into the background.

Babies on a sitcom are basically props, anyway. There are severe
limitations on how long they can be on a set (which is why twins are
usually used) ; there's no way to control them, and they can't deliver
lines. So what you're left with is writing scenes where someone is holding
a baby, feeding a baby, or changing a baby (We did one story on Cybill
where she lost the baby -- but notice that for most of the episode the baby
was off-camera)

I recently created a show for CBS called "LIFE... and Stuff", which will
air sometime this spring. It's basically about a monogamous, married couple
facing the very real challenges of maintaining a marriage after two kids
and ten years together (yes, I write what I know). It was a real creative
challenge to write interesting stories which didn't involve the husband a
wife constantly arguing (See, if watching real life were sufficiently
entertaining, we wouldn't need television).

But, hey -- if you can write a funny, entertaining sitcom about happy
married people with kids, and come up with enough fresh, original stories
to last at least 5 years, you have a very lucrative career ahead of you.

You might want to work on your spelling, though...

Lee Aronsohn

ra...@joesbar.cc.vt.edu

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Jan 3, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/3/97
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Overpaid (over...@metawire.com) wrote:

: Here's the problem: There just isn't that much you can write about a


: happily married couple -- there has to be conflict to make a story
: interesting. There are plenty of happily married, monogamous people with
: kids on ABC's TGIF shows -- but do you want to watch them? Even Mad About
: You has had to resort to a near breakup and a pregnancy .

Well, you have a point there. Although I can think of a couple of
good examples of shows built around a happily married couple with
kids. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Bill Cosby Show" come to mind.
Still, they're pretty rare.

: But, hey -- if you can write a funny, entertaining sitcom about happy


: married people with kids, and come up with enough fresh, original stories
: to last at least 5 years, you have a very lucrative career ahead of you.

I never could write dialog, but I bet I could outline at least 1 full
season. ;-) Of course, since it would not be like any current hit show,
no one would even try it.

Anyway, sorry to jump in the middle of the conversation.

--
*****************************************************************************
* Bill Ranck +1-540-231-3951 ra...@vt.edu *
* Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Computing Center *
*****************************************************************************

Ian J. Ball

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Jan 3, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/3/97
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In article <overpaid-ya023580...@snews.zippo.com>,
over...@metawire.com (Overpaid) wrote:

> Here's the problem: There just isn't that much you can write about a
> happily married couple -- there has to be conflict to make a story
> interesting.

OK, I disagree with this...

> There are plenty of happily married, monogamous people with
> kids on ABC's TGIF shows -- but do you want to watch them?

But you have a point here. "Family" shows tend to be (but don't *have* to
be) boring.

> But once the baby comes, watch out. I was on Murphy Brown the year she had
> her baby. I was really excited about what this could mean for the
> character, and I wrote an episode about the conflict she feels between
> pursuing her career and caring for her child ("Midnight Plane to Paris").
> However, at the end of that season, network testing discovered that people
> were not interested in seeing Murphy as a mother -- they wanted to see
> Murphy being Murphy -- so the kid was shoved into the background.

Now, there may be a lot of truth in this. I suppose that it's quite
possible that people want entertainment that is escapist, and unlike their
lives (especially in sitcoms). The "Murphy" episode you wrote may well
have hit too close to home for too many, and thus wouldn't be entertaining
(to them).

> Babies on a sitcom are basically props, anyway. There are severe
> limitations on how long they can be on a set (which is why twins are
> usually used) ; there's no way to control them, and they can't deliver
> lines. So what you're left with is writing scenes where someone is holding
> a baby, feeding a baby, or changing a baby (We did one story on Cybill
> where she lost the baby -- but notice that for most of the episode the baby
> was off-camera)

Now, I would tend to agree that babies on TV *are* boring. So I'll conceed
the point there that babies generally don't add anything to shows.

> I recently created a show for CBS called "LIFE... and Stuff", which will
> air sometime this spring. It's basically about a monogamous, married couple
> facing the very real challenges of maintaining a marriage after two kids
> and ten years together (yes, I write what I know). It was a real creative
> challenge to write interesting stories which didn't involve the husband a
> wife constantly arguing (See, if watching real life were sufficiently
> entertaining, we wouldn't need television).

It'll be interesting to see if it finds an audience. "Mad About You" and
"Something So Right" have, so it might take off.

> But, hey -- if you can write a funny, entertaining sitcom about happy
> married people with kids, and come up with enough fresh, original stories
> to last at least 5 years, you have a very lucrative career ahead of you.

I know my limitations, and I doubt I could ever write comedy, especially a
TV sitcom.

> You might want to work on your spelling, though...

That would involve a major lifestyle change... Nope, can't do it. ;>
--
Ian J. Ball | Want my TV episode guides or rec.arts.tv FAQ?
Grad Student, UCLA | http://members.aol.com/IJBall/WWW/IJBall.html
IJB...@aol.com | ftp://members.aol.com/IJBall3/FTP/
i...@ucla.edu | "What to do, with time so short?..."

Gary L. Warren

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Jan 3, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/3/97
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Overpaid wrote:
> I've written Murphy Brown, Grace Under Fire, Cybill, and many other shows
> with single/divorced characters. Most of the people I work with are married
> and monogamous.


But I *think* the original complaint was, or *should* be, why are most
TV characters swinging singles hopping into bed with each other?

> Here's the problem: There just isn't that much you can write about a
> happily married couple -- there has to be conflict to make a story

> interesting. There are plenty of happily married, monogamous people with


> kids on ABC's TGIF shows -- but do you want to watch them? Even Mad About
> You has had to resort to a near breakup and a pregnancy .


Apparently, SOMEONE watches ABC's boring-as-manure FAMILY MATTERS or it
wouldn't have lasted as long as it has. And shows like NBC's COSBY and
FAMILY TIES proved that loving married couples CAN make a good show,
PROVIDED the shows don't run themselves into the ground with other
formulas. In this case, I mean making FT's Alex Keaton the central
story character in the program's last three years, or COSBY's family
digging up nauseatingly cute kids year after year.


glw
--
Gary L. Warren
g...@texanet.net, garylwar...@juno.com, MrGa...@aol.com
and/or te...@tenet.edu
Personal Home Page: http://members.tripod.com/~GaryLWarren/index.html
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Magnus Stromgren

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Jan 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/4/97
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over...@metawire.com (Overpaid) wrote:

> There are plenty of happily married, monogamous people with
> kids on ABC's TGIF shows -- but do you want to watch them?

Well, the reason not to might not be the happy marriages.

--
Magnus Stromgren <mass...@student.umu.se>
<URL:http://www.ts.umu.se/%7Emagnus2/>

"Hollywood dream teens / Yesterday's trash queens"
---Motley Crue

JSTONE9352

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Jan 4, 1997, 3:00:00 AM1/4/97
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My original idea was not shows that start out with marriage and kids
but these elements added later in a series. Most of these attempts
seem to fail. John S.

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