Situation Comedy- Final DraftPart of: Guest Bloggers , Television
[Mark's Breakfast: Because the Sparkletts water cooler was empty, my breakfast was a can of Vanilla Coke. I wouldn't recommend it.]
Hi, everyone, this is Mark Treitel, co-writer of Sperm Donor and one of the stars of "Situation: Comedy". Yes, if you wait long enough, you will get your own reality tv show.
TIffany asked me to blog about my experiences on Situation: Comedy. Basically, we were working on a sitcom with a reality tv show filming us. We would get to the set around 7:30-7:45 AM every day. That would be our call time, because every day we would have to be miked up and throughout the day, we would have our batteries replace. Sometimes the reality show would get in the way of actual writing, but that is the nature of the beast -- and we knew that when we signed away all of our rights. I think my next child is legally NBC Universal's until 2010.
We would be in the middle of a writing session and either Shoe, or myself, and even Mort would be called away to shoot a video interview. What's crazy about the video interviews is that you do them at least once a day, for about a half hour to an hour, and we had about five weeks of shooting. And of course, they only use about a few seconds from all those hours. The video editors told me they saw something in the realm of 60 hours of us. How they didn't commit suicide, I don't know.
Also, the reality crew shoots many of their interviews after the show finished taping, to fill in gaps and holes that were not captured in the regular taping. When you see video interviews, it's pretty easy to tell which are done in the present, and which are being done to pretend to being in the present. Look for different hair lengths or plastic surgery.
During the filming of Situation: Comedy, there were numerous "tasks" we had to do that had nothing to do with writing a sitcom, but were supposed to help the reality show. Almost all of those extra things were actually not in the reality show as it aired. The funniest bit of all time was when we had to interview a teenage girl to figure out how they talked -- but the girl we got to interview was not giving us anything to use for our characters, so I cracked up at the absurdity of the whole process. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen -- here are camera crews recording me as is if this was serious.
Shoe, who is even more of a reality junkie than I am, knew that reality producers can edit people and events. Basically, they can take something you do innocently and replicate it five times in a row to make you look like you always do that character trait for dramatic effect. You can see an example in Episode 106, when they show Maxine talk to the actors in a "madwoman" fashion.
What people don't understand is that most sitcom staff and pilots happen very similarly to our experience. You are constantly being given notes, by the production studios, by the network, by the director and you're constantly having to make changes. Having friends who work on sitcom writing staffs, I have heard numerous horror stories of entire scripts being thrown out a day before taping and having the staff gang-rewrite the shows from scratch. We were very lucky to have Mort Nathan guide us through the process. You really got only a small taste of how much he helped us in the entire process.
We thought that NBC would make us rewrite up until shooting day, because they had kept insisting on changes in the story. It wasn't until the network run-thru, that you saw in Episode 106, that we knew we were in very good shape. I personally knew we had a show when David DeLuise (Clyde) first enters. At the producer's run-thru, we had an audience of complete strangers, people that didn't know anything about the show, and definitely not about the reality show. They were seeing our show with an open mind. When Maggie Wheeler (Kaitlyn) opened the door to reveal David, the audience cracked up for about a minute. We knew right there and then we had a show. There is a definite difference between the final edited version of the show and tape night. We had a tremendous tape night with a very good, live audience. The laughs you hear on the video edit, are from the tape night. Since we had to make a fifteen minute presentation, we were very tight on time and had to make some hard decisions in what we kept and what we chucked.
Right now as the show ends, we feel good because whatever happens, we accomplished something that very few people can say they did, making a sitcom pilot for NBC.
We want to thank everyone who watched and voted for The Sperm Donor.
Ever since our pilot aired on aol.com, we have gotten hundreds of emails and phone calls of support and some very specific words of encouragement from television producers and critics. We have recently signed with television and feature agents and have had two major career developments. We sold a comedy feature with Mike Epps ("The Honeymooners") attached that should go into production this fall and we are currently rewriting a comedy feature for Zucker-Netter, (the production company behind the all time comedy favorites of "Airplane" and "Naked Gun".)
You can always keep track of our exploits at: