Modern Family: Act I WIN!!

Last night was the first table read in class of my Modern Family spec script. I had been dreading it for WEEKS, mainly because I had the worst pitch of my life ever — even thinking about it gives me waves of pain.

So I already had the task of redeeming myself. I did that by writing the first scene of the cold open (which is typically two-three scenes). And then I let it sit. For like, two weeks.

Then, I missed a class.

Then I showed up to the next class empty-handed (I had a good excuse, but more on that later). Meanwhile, everyone had their first Act mostly read and workshopped. So I knew I couldn’t walk in without a script again for this week’s class. It would have been ridiculous. But still, I did nothing on Saturday. Nothing on Sunday. Nothing on Monday.

Tuesday — I come home with the game plan: write like hell! Which is what I did. And surprisingly, I was able to finish my act and revise it 4 times in about 90ish minutes. I went over it a few more times and shut my computer off.

After an I Love Lucy-type moment at work tangoing with the printer, I headed off to class. I sat through the first read of the night. Pretty good — he’s a very smart writer, and an encyclopedia of show based knowledge (for basically any show, he’s like, “Yeah, I think they had an episode like that already, where your lead character said he liked cheeseburgers, so I don’t know if you want to double-up.” Amazing).

And then it was my turn. I cast the roles (everyone except Haley, who will appear in Act II), and we began to read.

Lo and behold: laughter — on the FIRST LINE!!!

Every bit of heartache that I was hiding with nervous laughter and self-deprecation subsided. I mean, I was nervous throughout the whole thing, but people were giving some positive feedback; laughing at lines I thought up on the subway ride home from work, or while grocery shopping on a random Saturday that I stored in my head until Tuesday night. I couldn’t feel more pleased.

Afterwards, everyone had great ideas and jokes to make the dialogue better. The energy was high-high-high. It felt freaking good.

Two more acts to go.

Anyway, there were a few things I had figured out about the show that really helped me:

– Phil has the strongest re-establishment right at the top of the show (more so in the first season, but this is still fairly true in the current season, as well). He usually says something or indicates something to “remind” you that he’s the Cool Dad. The Good Cop.

– The best parts of this show stem from the unconventional relationship pairings, specifically the adult-child relationships. How hilarious was Luke as Cameron’s right-hand man for that fancy cello money-raising event? Also, Luke teaching Gloria how to ride a bike was brilliant. A little cheesy, but brilliant nonetheless. Basically all things Luke.

– They take small liberties with the cold open. They typically write a fairly long cold open, and it mostly touches upon each family, but sometimes their cold open is one long scene with one family. Or one short scene. Or it’s long, but it takes place with all of the families in one location (like the “En Garde” episode).

– The truth is ever-present. Rarely will someone out-and-out LIE on the show, whereas in most sitcoms, the big joke at the end is that someone told a lie. In Modern Family, yeah, someone might tell a lie, but the meat of the story is them actually telling the truth, and moving on from there, exploring the truth, and what comes with that. It’s the awkwardness of reality. Like in the episode two weeks ago, when it was revealed Lily’s last name on her immigration/adoption/whatever records is Pritchett, and not Tucker-Pritchett. But the magic in that was revealing why Mitchell chose to lie about their papers, and the emotions that came out of that situation.


About Michelle

I like pie. And clapping.

Posted on March 11, 2011, in Quarter 1: Winter 2010, Writing a Half-Hour Comedy Spec and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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