Wednesday, April 06, 2016

How to write a Millennial pilot

The new brand of sitcoms these days are single-camera shows about Millennial singles … existing. And along the way humor supposedly happens. Most of these shows are on streaming services or cable channels and have small niche audiences. A few have their moments or funny cast members. But for the most part they seem almost interchangeable – the hard-R subject matter, casual sex, very thin storylines, detached characters reacting to situations that strain credulity. So I figured, what the hell, why not put them together and write my own zeitgeist-chasing pilot? As you know, no writer in television is more cutting edge than me. So here is the beginning of my new pilot, iRonic.


Quick shots of the city. MUSIC OVER: “F----ing You Tonight” by Notorious B.I.G. or “It Must Be Him” by Vikki Carr.


CLOSE ON CHLOE: She’s cute but “Jewish cute” meaning she’s not attractive enough to star in anything herself but she provides comic relief so she’s network approved. Chloe is in bed. She wakes up, turns to see she’s in bed with an Isis terrorist. She grabs her phone and places a call.



CLOSE ON BRI: Not as funny but prettier and Gentile so it’s okay. She too is in bed. She answers her iPhone.

BRI: Hey, what’s up?

CHLOE: I think I fucked a guy from Isis.

BRI: You slut!

CHLOE: I got so totally shit-faced last night.

BRI: Well, obviously.

CHLOE: Wanna get brunch?

BRI: Yeah, but then I want to just, y’know, walk around and buy vintage stuff and talk about yeast infections.

CHLOE: Okay. Who did you fuck last night?

BRI: Let me see. Oh shit.

CAMERA WIDENS. Bri is in bed with a goat.

BRI: (sing song) Awk-ward.

The goat brays.

BRI: Okay, like, you didn’t seriously just bray right now?



RAJ and J.C. are walking down the street. RAJ is of “immigrant descent. “J.C. is a big bearded slacker type.

RAJ: So it’s like, my parents were tortured in the old country and had their homes burned down and their siblings murdered and my iPad won’t recognize my wireless keyboard.

J.C.: Dude!

RAJ: Wow. They had a hard life and I have an easy life and that never occurred to me until just this moment.

J.C.: I know! Hey, you know what I can’t wrap my head around? So like people get up in the morning and they go to these jobs, and they don’t really like ‘em, but they do them, right?  And then at the end of the month they get paid for doing them and they use that money to pay for rent and food and to buy things, and it’s like – that’s what people do, y’know?

RAJ: That's one of those "there is no answer/ only questions" question. Hey, do you ever want to have kids?



Chloe and Bri drinking mimosas.

BRI: The service is so slow. Those people over there already got their French toast and they came in after us.

CHLOE: I should’ve gotten the French toast.

BRI: What did you order?

CHLOE: An omelet.

BRI:  So did I.

CHLOE:  Why did we do that?

BRI:  I don't know.  

BRI: You know what’s really fun? Eating breakfast at dinner.

CHLOE: Okay, like you didn’t just say that to me right now because that’s what I was going to say to you.

BRI: No way, bitch.

CHLOE: Like seriously.

BRI: My ex wants to get back together.

CHLOE:  When is our food coming?

BRI:  I know.  I'm so hungry I could eat a horse.

CHLOE: Or a goat.

BRI: I never went down on it.  Don't get all judge-y.

CHLOE: What's the point of being a restaurant if they don't serve food?  

BRI: I know. It’s like you go to these places and they take your order and then you like wait and wait and wait.

A waiter arrives with their food.

WAITER: Sorry it took so long. The chef wanted to make sure your omelets were cooked to perfection.

BRI: (sing song) Awk-ward.

CHLOE: That still doesn’t explain why we never got rolls!

The waiter moves off.

CHLOE: Bitch! So what was wrong with your ex? I know you told me ten times already but I forgot. Oh shit. My finger is stuck in this Ketchup bottle.

BRI: He’s like this on-the-nose, Central Casting cliché nerd complete with glasses and collared shirts and has this job you'd expect where he never speaks up for himself and who moved into the on-the-nose Oakwood Garden Apartments where everyone is on-the-nose alone and lonely and the walls of course are paper thin.

CHLOE: Oh. Yeah.

BRI: And he’s so lame. He just wants to make me happy and do things for me, and who needs that pressure?   I think the busboy is someone I once fucked.  Hey, the cheese isn't melted.  This omelet's not perfect. 

CHLOE: So what are you going to do? I may need to go to the ER.

BRI:  I can't send it back.  It'll take forever.

CHLOE:  No, bitch.  What are you gonna do about your ex?   I think my circulation is cut off.  

BRI: I’m not going to see him.

CHLOE: Then problem solved.

BRI: (realizing) Right.

CHLOE: Hey, let’s go to somebody to get our taxes done!

BRI: Totally!

Okay, that’s a start. Whattaya think? Worth continuing?


B.A. said...

Sounds like BROAD CITY without the vaping!

Jim S said...


It's like looking in a mirror of my life. You've caught lightning in a bottle.

404 said...

I already care about these characters more than I do for any of the people in GIRLS.

Carol said...

Yes, please continue. I need to know if Bri gets her finger out of the ketchup bottle!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

I'm up waaay too early to cut some car spots for Dallas radio this weekend, but I thought I'd take a look at the blog just to see what's up for today. I scared the dog again when I laughed out loud to:

"“F----ing You Tonight” by Notorious B.I.G. or “It Must Be Him” by Vikki Carr."

God, was that funny... No spit take this time, but it cleared my sinuses which will come in handy in about twenty minutes...

Gary Benz said...

Ken, I'm thinking of starting up a streaming service called "Angst." It will be a multimedia platform for millennials and those who tolerate them. Can I get an order for 13 more episodes of "iRonic"? I can't pay you, of course, but think of the exposure!

VP81955 said...

Yawn. Sorry, millennials, but "Mom" has more laughs in its figurative little finger than all your hip single-cams have on their entire episodes. Of course, "Mom" is one of those dreaded multi-cams filmed before an audience who dares not to be smug and actually laughs.

Sung said...

In a word, yes! Fyi, I don't know if you've seen the show Younger, but it manages to skewer and celebrate Millennial culture at the same time.

Stephen Marks said...

Absolutely continue, it's brilliant. Nice job Ken. Generous of you to give a cameo to the goat who ate the payroll in season 10 of MASH. Poor things been out of work longer than Sally Struthers.

Earl Boebert said...

ROTFLMAO. Levine FTW. And so forth.

One suggestion: gotta work texting in there somehow. Ripe source of gags based on contrast between text balloon and actual scene.

Proposed title: Ordinary Snowflakes.

Jason said...

Okay, now I'm invested in these characters, so you'd better pitch this to someone!

Will Raj ever have kids? Will he??

Paul Duca said...

Maybe Vicki Carr can cover Notorious B.I.G.

Mitchell McLean said...

Congratulations! It's the first such show that I would actually watch.

Herschel said...

It's a sure sign that we are old when we don't understand the next generation. Not that being-getting old is a bad thing - no judgments here today.

I use to hate my parents and grand parents when they didn't understand that something I thought was cool wasn't cool to them. Now that I'm a parent, I realize how stupid I was then or am I just clueless now?

I'd better quit before my head explodes.

blinky said...

I have seen that show! Good job.
I bet there would be room on HBO for a parody of the Millennium cliche show. Like a Larry Sanders Show for the New Girl, Master of None and 2 Broke Girls genre.
Do it. Seriously.

Brian Drake said...

Very a sad way. I weep for our future. Somebody probably like totally said that about my generation once, so that kinda makes this comment awk-ward. Bitches need to get off my rock garden (the HOA won't let us have lawns).

Pat Reeder said...

You've definitely got the rhythm and style of Millennial comedy down, but you need to remove the funny lines. Any actual humor or wit is a dead giveaway that it's not really a Millennial sitcom.

BTW, I tried watching one of those cable shows a while back that keeps getting hailed as cutting edge comic genius. I can't even remember what it was now. I turned it off after 15 minutes of watching the allegedly hilarious female protagonists talk about smoking weed, go out looking to buy weed, have trouble finding weed, finally find some weed, then smoke some weed.

There wasn't a single funny line or anything remotely entertaining in it, but I think I understand now why its fans can't stop laughing.

JPilot said...

Brooklyn. NYC is so 1990s!

Anonymous said...

Maybe MASH had it wrong. Maybe Wars are good. It builds national character, and kills the stupid.

Imagine a good old fashioned world war right now. Think of all those bearded hipsters, asleep in bed with their chihuahua's as you read this, who would be clean shaven, shitting what shit they had to shit into their army boots, crying for their mothers, while Russian 88's unloaded on their position behind an ordinance-ridden tree in the Ukraine. It's hot and humid. Mosquitoes everywhere, chewin' them alive. Why did it get so quiet? When will the next shell arrive? When?

Even if you think you hate war, you can't deny that the above scenario puts a little smile on your face.

Maybe war is kind of like society taking a really cold shower. It wakes you up, and gets rid of the stink at the same time. Everyone claims to hate it, but everyone feels so good afterwards.


Anonymous said...

This will make me sound like an asshole I guess, but whatever happened to physical comedy? Nobody knows how to do it. Ricky Gervais gives a nod to Laurel and Hardy occasionally, but other than him, you just don't see it done. Physical comedy is becoming a forgotten art.
The link below is something that actually happened, but it's so Laurel and Hardyesque, I defy anyone not to laugh. It's not like it's some esoteric style. Something like this has happened to everybody. That's why we laugh so hard:

Mike said...

I'm wearing my suit, so here are my notes:
I think you're on the wrong coast and in the wrong decade. I think this is eighties Valley girl. If I see any awesomes, I'll know for sure.
Millennial comedies should contain jokes in leetspeak. Plenty of 1's.
The opening music should evoke sophistication & New York's Jewish musical history: something that's not the Beastie Boys.

BluePedal said...

I love it! I volunteer to host the wrap up show - Isn't it iRonic? I'm Moe Ronic and my first guest will of course be the goat.

Aaron Sheckley said...

I like to look at it this way; it's not how hip and cool you were in your twenties, it's actually about how embarrassed you'll be by what you thought was hip and cool when you're 40 and looking back at your past. I can live with knowing I had a Members Only jacket, and acid washed jeans, and a mixtape in my car with Bananarama on it. Just imagine those poor millenials at the age of forty, knowing that somewhere on the net lurks a hundred gushing Facebook posts on how awesome and cutting edge they thought the show "Girls" was. I feel bad for them, because they're really the first generation that is not going to be able to escape their hideous, callow youth.

Diane D. said...

I haven't watched any of the new brand of sitcoms, but I assume this is what they are like, but with no irony intended. Anyway, I think it is brilliant and LMAO hilarious! The commenter who said, "I bet there would be room on HBO for a parody of the millennium cliche show" is probably on to something. You should do it! (And the title….OMG!! You really are a genius)

Elf said...

Already the casting director is wondering what singer from a currently hot band that will be all but forgotten by the time the show airs to play the goat.

Mark said...

You have me hooked. I'd watch this one.

Time H said...

Brilliant! Now can you work on a rewrite for the Ranch that doesn't include laugh tracks.

Johnny Walker said...

I was watching CHEERS the other day (OK, that's every day, as I fall asleep to it every night), and I noticed what a refreshing voice Diane was. In the scene (in a script by Phoef Sutton, I believe) Woody was lamenting that he'd been dumped. Cliffy and Norm's advice was along the lines of, "to get over one girl, you need to get under another!". Woody, being young and naive was taken in by their advice, and began thinking about hunting around for someone to sleep with and then toss away.

That's where a comedy today would end. The audience would be laughing with Cliffy and Norm, even if it was iRonically.

What was refreshing was that Diane stepped in and told Woody that he shouldn't be trying to avoid his pain, but that real personal growth comes from suffering (to which Carla quipped, "Oh yeah, how come I haven't grown an inch since I met you?"). But how often do you hear a character on TV today talk about FACING pain and the benefits of doing so? Especially in a positive, earnest way?

Hmm. I miss earnest characters (look what they did to Superman). Everyone's so keen to show how they don't care any more, how cynical and flippant they can be.

I often wonder why we traits that could easily be associated with psychopaths are so popular these days (he's never afraid, never touched by anything, cold, uncaring, etc -- but provided he can quip with the best of them, he's "bad ass"?).

I digress. Did I mention I'm nearing 40? Is this what happens why your voice stops being paid attention to by the media? :)

Johnny Walker said...

PS - The script is hilarious

bruce said...

Last sitcom I watched regularly was The Sopranos. So I'm not qualified to judge the script, but it sounded pretty good. Needs more Chechen interior decorators.

Wallis Lane said...


You forgot to have them tweet photos of their omelets. Otherwise, zeitgeist nailed!

ddd said...

hi I am a Brazilian guy that loves cheers . In 1999 the SONY TV transmitted cheers until the 8th season and then stopped it. Fortunately in this year I could translate cheers and saw the end of the sitcom. Cheers is the best! But I would like to know the Sam's one true love that Norm spoked ? It is the bar! Am I sure?? But what I 'd really like to know is: didn't you guys never desire Sam and Diane getting married in the final ? I know that the public has decided the final... but what do the cast, writers, director really wanted? And Why doesn't Shelley long made guest appearances on the show??

p.s. Sorry for my english

Melanie said...

Friday Question: I was wondering as a writer if you could comment on what's going on with the shows The 100 and The Walking Dead. In both cases, the showrunners and writers have courted and encouraged active fan involvement on their shows via Social Media. Recently, both shows ran episodes that offended the core fan bases who are now very strongly, very vocally responding negatively to storylines and attempting to cultivate boycotts of the shows. In regards to The 100, the show very blatantly lied to it's LBGT fans regarding the fate of the only Lesbian character on the show. While the writers claim it was a necessary evil to "protect the story" - most fans and critics agree the plot point was just for shock value and that the story could have been resolved in many other different ways. I guess my question is, if you are a writer who is actively courting fan involvement with your show to boost ratings, what responsibility do you have to that fan community to protect the fan's interests in the show (ie: with certain characters or plot points lifted from source material)? People are mad because the writers are trying to have it both ways - play up storylines they know fans like to boost ratings, but then also, dismiss and diminish fan reaction when they try to "pull off a stunt". Fans have complained for both shows that the writers seem to be very deliberately writing material that they know the fans will hate simply for shock value. I understand that story comes first, but there are thousands of ways to tell a story that services the characters and the fans, wouldn't you agree? Once you get into bed with the Fans why should you be surprised when they lash out if you kick them out the bed?

Charles H. Bryan said...

I'll never be able to read the words "CAMERA WIDENS" again without thinking of that next line.

However, geezer though I am, I don't like to mock the young people or throw them into one big Millenial bag. My generation had THE MOD SQUAD.

Sherry Niles said...

Agree with Barefoot Billy Aloha on the excellence of your theme song recommendations. Another interesting choice relating to young people struggling to survive would be "Timothy" by the Buoys, circa 1971.

Sherry Niles said...

Friday Frasier Question: I notice the fireplace in Frasier's apartment is often blazing, and in some episodes there are lots of real candles burning. Were there any regulations about having real fire on an indoor set?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

The only thing to add would be a few more, "like"s, a couple of "bitch"es, and at least one mention to someone's "vag", or "shaving"