Articles tagged “Just the Ten of Us”

Five Rules For 80s Sit-Com Success

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

In our extensive, painstakingly long study of the creative process–we thought we’d solute one seemingly common aspect of the originating mojiss for many 1980s situation comedies. First we’ll do the history–so if you want to get to the >>CONFLICT<<–most likely if you’re under the age of lets say 35.. scroll down to >>CONFLICT<< below.

You remember the 80s? VH-1 won’t let you forget–but soon enough you will forget them. It was the high water mark for the Situation Comedy–one in which there was a living room with a door on the left leading ‘outside’ a couch in the middle that sat THREE, some pictures, a staircase and a kitchen on the right–or vice versa–that’s where IT happened.

In order to understand what went into that genius–I guess you could try to understand Michael Eisner. In the book about him–DisneyWars, which I read whilst I was working under der Fuhrer as the remaining Disney brothers were failing to over throw him over Walt’s dead body, he’s given credit for creating something called “High-Concept”. Its something where you pick a star or two–TENT POLES if you will to get them in the door, wrap them around a situation with an obvious conflict like a black cop in a rich town, use a studio you already have or shoot it all in LA, do everything else on the cheap including BRONSON PINCHOT and blim, blam thank you mam–Cha-Ching.. HIGH CONCEPT. It also helps if you’re HIGH when you watch these movies.

HIGH CONCEPT in the 80s vs. the 70s, was like Pop Chart Singles were to Albums, the K-Car was to the Muscle Car and most interestingly NEW COKE was to Original Formula(for the record, I actually DID actually like New Coke better). Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop II, Indiana Jones and the Lost Arc, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom–these were some of the original HIGH CONCEPTS–but my GEORGE–there were SOOO MANY and we loved them so.

How come in Hollywood, when some schmuck in Hollywood comes up with some glamorous term like HIGH CONCEPT(or his assistant does), he’s considered genius and ooo’d and aw’d and no one knows who the hell Dan Robbins is?–I’ll never know.

He did pretty much the same thing. Mike and Dan–both formulaticians–with a whiz bang idea that swept through the suburban splundor and kept people from smiling awkwardly in passing while running home to crack open another one.

How does this reflect creative cognition? What happened in the 80s was the industrialization of the media form.New distribution channels opened up. Multiplexes formed. TBS was invented–and there was money to be made like always, but this time is was A LOT MORE OF IT.

This shit needed to be cranked out like GOOSE through a SHIT factory. Those who came up with these FORMATTING tricks, became GODS, their heads as big as round bubbles.

This is very interesting for us Schmoos, generational in fact!–as we’ve experienced a COLON blow of distribution channels openning up in similar form to the upheaval of the early 80s–but MUCH MUCH bigger! Step right up and have your head be blown into a bubble too!

History lesson’s over, Hegel has been paid his due–and lets get to the good stuff.

Those sit-coms from the 80s? Why did they have such mass appeal? You look at these things and you realize the only reason why industry people long for these good old days is because the money was BIG and EASY–and it was EASY to make.

Ejmiatsin >>CONFLICT<< >>CONFLICT<<

The basic formula: Middle class person, reinvents themselves into a not really fucked up situation and everything comes up roses–as sung through a HYPER POWER DEISEL VOICE that sends the dogs running in from other rooms.

Within the THEME SONG, IS the entire concept, and when it left so did the entire franchise. Just like each situation–each song has a TURN for the fucking awesome–these moments are highlighted and explained below in between the []–if we learn anything else from this creative imputus–“what’s old is new, and we should have theme songs in everything we do”… AND NOW, the FIVE RULES for 80s Sit-Com Sucess:

Rule 1:

You move somewhere. [and if anyone knows me well, now is when I insert how pitiful it is that their dreams are seemingly limitless for them in Chicago when you can’t take the train anywhere unless you transfer downtown or even find a corner there that doesn’t smell like poo]


When you get there, it’s gonna be AWESOME(or at least the rich part of Connecticut)! [He lost a dream or two, .. at the end was Judith Light!–now we know why it took them like 6 seasons to not get it on–weak!]

Rule 3:

Two weirdos make a right and that’s some how intrinsic in your CABAM Happiness explosion [I might be father of the year!–or max out in 5 years on Mad about You]:

Rule 4:

This can happen too you middle class! Just move in with your financially sucessful photographer type sister who lives where she works and doesn’t have a straight staircase like the rest of the shows, but a TURNY one [How could something so good be so right.. so right!]. And no, that’s not your connection–that shocking shuffle move is an ‘effect’, so is the ‘blue sky above’.

Rule 5:
Don’t stray too much from Rules 1-4.
If you go too far, like making it just about Catholics(especially when none of the kids look alike and they don’t look like the parents either :o!)–despite getting most Reagan Democrats, your audience won’t be large enough like the generalist Growing Pains you grew out of and you go out of business in two seasons [stay on the ball {go to church} I might make the HALL OF FAME–what can he say?]. You know what, these rules work for just PLAIN mainstream American dreams in almost any regard–don’t they?

You know why I love these Themes so much–they took the time to actually explain to you what you were about to watch. Its all in there–Its like you’re in the PITCH MEETING and everything, no nuance about it. It wasn’t really until Seinfeld exploded this form, that they just put you INSIDE THE SHOW so you had to figure out for yourself what the hell you were watching?

What can be learned from this–if you transported yourself back to the 80s and figure out a way to make a middle class family type person feel like through an unrealistic reflection of the room in which they sit–staring back at them, and within their minds would be the promise of a brighter tomorrow and a better future–we probably still wanted that when we were humble enough to believe it was ok to have one or two TVs in the house.

In many respects, maybe we’ve grown richer as a country or a world. I know one aspect of DISNEY/ABC features now is instead of a laugh track they give you background music, implying “BOSE WAVE RADIO” for you. Or is it the Reality shows that invade our news programs.

FORGET THE DAMN THEME SONG–>SHIT, our houses don’t even look like the ones on TV anymore, nor do our situations. Who watches TV together anymore anyway–everyone’s seperated into their own worlds. We all get directly to the point now evertime–whatever we want, all the time.

We’ve gone from situation obsessed–to just right down to “strip out the other fucking filler and get me to the conflict obsessed”. All the time. YO Eisner–now adays its CONFLICT CONFLICT CONFLICT–we can’t appreciate you’re concept. What’s past that you wonder? Its already like eating frosted without the flakes. It won’t look like playing outside–I can tell you that much. Maybe its like a family guy episode, that just has punchline, no set up.

So, as we’re RETHINKING everything this year from MONEY, to WEATHERIZATION to HEALTH CARE to how to make a GM–let us consider–as SCHMOOS, how to program for the micro audiences of the future?

Is it enough to make something really good for our friends to watch? Can they handle a full 22 minute story, or even a 5 minute story–or do even they require moments? We cannot put these genies we dream about back into the bottles. Despite old being new again–its very unlikely in the specialized era of video, that people will ever tolerate a stair case behind a couch?

What I suspect, is the person who can access straight feelings in an accessible way. That’s where its at. Remember the way you’re grandparents smelled when you went to visit–PRINT IT.

Remember your gym teacher’s obsession with whistles–PRINT THAT TOO.

Finally–I don’t know how this really fits in here at this point. So this seems like a perfect place to ponder the question–how did Belverdere hitch hike accross the ocean with a cardboard sign–and why the hell would he pick Pittsburgh? We need to get back to having entertainment exist in a far away land where questions like these don’t matter AND THEY’RE SO UPFRONT ABOUT IT!–cause true love begins when you accept someone despite their obvious flaws–in fact, according to our new arrival— you love them for it.