You can read it here if you missed it or repressed it.
A number of you suggested the DMV might be a good setting for a sitcom. You talked about all the wacky people the staff could encounter, etc. There must be plenty of goofy anecdotes that a writer could draw from. It’s an arena ripe for comedy.
You’d think it was a natural. And it might be.
But it's also a big trap.
What you’ve developed is a setting not a series. Good shows start from characters.
So how would I develop this? I keep a file of interesting settings, funny possible characters, fragments of ideas – a lot of stuff I’ll end up never using. In that file, among the crap, will be the DMV.
Let's say that some time later I’m developing a series about a character who feels trapped. How does a person cope while trying to escape the chains of his life? I need to give him a job. What’s an arena that’s soul sucking and suffocating? Well, there are many to choose from, but that too is a trap. You need a boring job that won’t be boring for the audience.
This thinking would lead me to a government position, probably in civil service. First thought: Post Office. And since it was my first thought and the most obvious I immediately discard it. Besides, how much could I do in a Post Office? There’s one line of people. I’d want a venue with more activity. I’d also want a venue that most people can relate to. How many people in America have been to the Bureau of Consular Affairs?
I go to my file and voila – the DMV. To my knowledge there’s never been a series set in the DMV so that's another big plus. (There may have been pilots but nothing that got on the air.)
But my next thought is how can I use this venue to best promote my theme? What if my lead guy has an aged mother? Her license is up for renewal but she can’t pass the eye or driving test. He has to fail his own mother. And since she can no longer drive he has to more or less become her chauffeur. And she’s bitter about it so that strains their relationship. Thus, he’s even more trapped and it’s his own fault.
I would next think about his co-workers. What would the dynamics be and what would his relationships be with them? Might there be a character who has just checked out? Or one who has big plans?
At this point I would contact the DMV and see if I could spend a week there. I would talk to the employees, find out their real frustrations, and gather anecdotes. The more real I could make the world, the better.
After all of that had been assembled, then I would turn my attention to the possible wacky people who walk through the front door.
But the point is it’s a show about desperation, feeling trapped, spinning wheels – not a show about the DMV. And because the setting is filled with comic possibilities and my lead character has a strong drive, the series could be very funny. See what I'm saying? Same venue, different approach.
Now if you steal it, I want shared credit.