How to Develop a TV Show

By the ever-wise – and ever-funny – Ken Levine. So you know this is true:

by Ken Levine

Got some interesting comments on a piece I posted about visiting the DMV. You can read it here if you missed it or repressed it. thimk

A number of you suggested the DMV might be a good setting for a sitcom. You talked about all the wacky people the staff could encounter, etc. There must be plenty of goofy anecdotes that a writer could draw from. It’s an arena ripe for comedy.

You’d think it was a natural.  And it might be.

But it’s also a big trap.

What you’ve developed is a setting not a series. Good shows start from characters.

So how would I develop this? I keep a file of interesting settings, funny possible characters, fragments of ideas – a lot of stuff I’ll end up never using. In that file, among the crap, will be the DMV.

Let’s say that some time later I’m developing a series about a character who feels trapped. How does a person cope while trying to escape the chains of his life? I need to give him a job. What’s an arena that’s soul sucking and suffocating? Well, there are many to choose from, but that too is a trap. You need a boring job that won’t be boring for the audience.

Probably a good start is a work environment where he has to deal with the public. That also distinguishes it from THE OFFICE. So now I’m running through situations where the public is involved.

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