Planning your sitcom
Cilla Black, UK television host and pop singer, apparently has never been on a bus, cannot drive and has never done anything mundane since she was 19. But she can open a bottle of champagne…
This was her life, according to writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who were testing their latest script for a pilot TV sitcom and in which the main character, Tania, a TV celebrity, was written for Cilla.
We were in a feedback session of the Player Playwrights, a writing/acting group based in central London. (In Laurence Olivier’s old dressing room at the Phoenix theatre, to be precise.)
Some of the audience were having trouble with the TV show within a TV show format of the pilot sitcom and thought the idea of the characters being from Liverpool “stereotyped”.
But the idea fell into place once the writers revealed they had written the main character, Tania, a TV celebrity, for Cilla and Tania’s brother, Arthur, for Paul O’ Grady.
What I found fascinating is that Bafta-winning Marks and Gran, who have created among others Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart and Shine on Harvey Moon, seemed to not have planned out all six episodes.
The pilot was about “seeing all the opportunities down the road”, they said. Other characters, such as the Tania’s sister, were “in the bank” if the writers “needed her”.
That was quite comforting to find out that even seasoned hands did not plan out their plots. Just see where the writing takes you.
Do you plan your writing in advance? Or do you just write and see where it takes you? Do you even think of adding characters, so they are “in the bank” if needed?
PS I will be taking a short break – or is that intermission? – back soon!