9.28.2006

Pilotblogging: Is the single-camera comedy fully theorized?

Help me help you

This was one of the scripts I liked the best in the spring; the ending is a little different, somehow (I no longer have the script), but it's pretty much there. But all the way through I was thinking to myself, why is this single-camera? Subsequent chat has confirmed that I was not alone in this thought.

The benefits of single-camera are obvious: more movie-type shots, elaborate setups, no idiot crowd hooting at people kissing, and a general increase in pace. There's also a certain underplaying, deadpan kind of joke you can't do in multi-camera (cf., again and again, The Office). It's great to be able to write a scene where you don't have to cross your B story in, with all that entails -- justifications of why they happened to come over, and why they happen to be leaving just in time for the A story discussion to resume.

On the other hand a certain kind of super-theatrical tone is lost in single camera. Help Me Help You is about a therapy group, so it's like a summit of Kooky Karacters. Maybe it's because you associate such K.K.s with multi-cam, but in some ways I felt their over-the-topness wasn't landing enough (and I think the actors are all really good, so it's not a performance issue).

I don't know why they're not shooting this multi-cam without a studio audience, is all.

Another thing that hurts it is ABC's insistence of three commercial breaks, which means you have to find three act breaks in your story. Act breaks are like crying children demanding delicious plot twists. Three crying children in a half-hour are difficult to satisfy. Maybe it's okay in drama, where dramatic, commercial-spanning developments are part of the job, but it really fights rhythm and pace, two of the ineffable allies of comedy.

I don't know when I'll get to Ugly Betty, but I'm eager to see it.

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