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Sitcommy

I've been reading John Finnemore's blog entries on the design process behind writing the episodes of Cabin Pressure. I always find that sort of thing fascinating, as I both love glimpses into the artistic process, as well as find it instructive to see how writers I admire go about making their work effective.

He mentions that the one episode he kinda wishes he could switch out for another is Kuala Lumpur, the A-plot of which involves Douglas tricking Martin into not reporting an unauthorized pub by first making him want to hang out there, then making him feel guilty about not wanting to hang out there. Yeah, it's a little overcomplicated. Finnemore's problem with it is that it follows sitcom logic that isn't totally authentic to the characters. He doesn't think Martin's want makes sense.

Actually I somewhat disagree. Yes, there is definitely something a little off with this one-- though even the weakest episode of Cabin Pressure is better-crafted than most media --but I see the problem as something a little different. You know who it made me think of when Martin was at first trying to break up a little group that was meeting without him, then getting attached to the group once they allowed him to be part of it, then trying to find a way to weasel out of having to hang out when they proved to not be his crowd without hurting their feelings? Frasier.

Yes, Frasier is a sitcom character, and if you're not a fan you may consider that to be the nail in the coffin. But I love Fraiser, and part of the reason is because I feel like he's one of the few sitcom characters with an actually human, if slightly exaggerated, emotional landscape. And one of his DEFINING WANTS, all the way back from his Cheers days, the one drive in him that he's never really been able to satisfy, is his need to belong. Hell, what else besides this could have made him stay at Cheers as long as he did, when he's so drastically a different kind of person than the rest of them? Because they made him feel like he was part of their group; this was probably the first time in his life he ever belonged to a "friend group." He craves belonging because he's never really felt like he had it, and cannot stand the feeling of being excluded. I can see somebody like Martin, who's super-awkward and never really feels like people respect him, having a similar thing.

Of course, that's the problem-- while I can SEE that of Martin, it's never exactly been established as a problem for him. It's actually probably more about the respect thing for him, and this feels more like Frasier's particular problem than an issue of whether or not he's respected. So I guess I say that it isn't as if he is working without a believable motivation-- the problem is he's working from a motivation that we're not convinced is HIS.

I do agree about what he says about Douglas, though-- that Douglas probably wouldn't care to hang around there all the time, or work so hard to defend his ability to do so. They're probably as out of his normal set as the Cheers folks were for Frasier, and Douglas certainly does NOT show Frasier's need to belong above all else. It's a little too Rule of Funny for my tastes, not because of WHAT that motivation is, but because of WHO it's supposed to belong to. So yeah, I agree that it's a weaker episode, suffering from sitcom logic. But I think that if you just ESTABLISH something about a character, you can get a lot more belief on the audience's part. You just can't pull things out of the air and act as if they've always been that way.

About Me

My name is Phoebe. I'm Boston area theater professional and English professor focused in writing, acting, directing, and modeling. I'm known for having lots of interests, lots of opinions about those interests, and a very high estimation of the value thereof. This blog is for talking about whatever's on my mind, from my daily life to my activities to musing on any number of abstract topics. Thanks for taking the time to read.

My productions:

Upcoming Productions:



MRS. HAWKING part 2 and 3


at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016

presented by The Chameleon's Dish

Vivat Regina
by Phoebe Roberts

at 2PM

and

Base Instruments
by Phoebe Roberts

at 6PM

Saturday, May 13th 2017
at 274 Moody Street, Waltham, MA

Other Achievements:

"The Tailor at Loring's End" screenplay
Quarter Finalist in the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition 2013

"Adonis" screenplay
Top Ten Percent in the Bluecat Screenwriting Contest 2015

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