Dont Fight City Hall

The biggest mistake beginning sitcom writers make is to write in new characters who share, let alone hog, the spotlight. For many good reasons the stars demand 80 percent of the dialogue. The audience, too, has been conditioned to see the whole show as a vehicle for the star they love. Don't fight it.

Whatever the problem, the lead characters always support moral goodness—a throwback to the American film code which insisted that crime does not pay. Characters continually fight for right against wrong, although their belief as to what's right and what's wrong may vary. Over-protective parents are all right, because they are really for their children's well-being. In sitcoms, characters may even be above the normal rules of morality because they are goofy and lovable, but never wicked.

No matter how tense your situations become within one episode, your story should end happily. This construction is reassuring for the audience, who looks forward to a familiar situation each week. But although your ending resolves the immediate problem, it never resolves the basic conflict of the series. That's the cliffhanger.

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