Q&A: Sitcom Structure

Q: I read your article on structuring dramatic TV series and how to apply your 5 Key Turning Points. As a comedy writer, I was wondering, can the same structure be applied to a 22-minute sitcom?

A: The 5 turning points can apply to sitcoms, with some variation. An established sitcom will usually develop a number of characters who evolve into heroes or protagonists for the series, resulting in A, B and C stories, each following the 6 stages. And because we already empathize with these characters and know their everyday lives, the OPPORTUNITY and NEW SITUATION are often eliminated, and after the opening, an immediate CHANGE OF PLANS will lead to that character’s pursuit of his or her goal for that episode. In other words, after the pilot for a sitcom, each episode will have 4 turning points and 5 resulting stages for each of the A, B and C story lines. Hope that helps.