Wait a minute. Let’s read that headline again – WRITE A SITCOM THAT’S ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN. Isn’t that plagiarism? Isn’t that unethical? Illegal?
How many times have you seen a western where the young gunfighter wants to challenge the legendary gunfighter? You’ve seen variations of it a few times, right? Now did you ever see the movie, The Hustler? Wasn’t that about the young pool player who wanted to challenge the legendary Minnesota Fats?
Surely you’ve heard the story of Faust, who sold his soul to the devil. Have you seen the musical play or the movie, Damn Yankees? It’s about a Washington Senators fan who sells his soul to the devil so he can have one season as a great baseball play who will help the Senators beat those “Damn Yankees” and win the World Series.
Jerry Lewis made a movie called The Nutty Professor. It’s based on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’ll bet Robert Louis Stevenson never thought he’d be providing material for Jerry Lewis. Dean, maybe; but not Jerry.
Why not get some practice in sitcom writing by going through the classics and coming up with a great story line that can be converted to a script for one of your favorite shows.
It’s a great start because you’ve got, as you’ve heard so often, a beginning, a middle, and an end. You’ve got a basic plot. Now convert it to the characters who populate your show.
How about the story of Androcles and the Lion where Androcles removes a thorn from the lion’s paw and the lion later saves Androcles’s life. Try turning that into a premise for The Drew Carey Show or Becker.
Shaw’s Pygmalion was turned into the musical My Fair Lady. Maybe you can turn it into an episode for Friends.
Even Fairy Tales can make interesting starting points for your writing. Jack and the Beanstalk might be translated into a story that could be appropriate for Frasier.
And you don’t even have to go back as far as the classics or Aesop’s Fables. You can borrow from modern scripts. The story of the shootout at the O.K. Corral has been done several times by Hollywood, but it might make an interesting premise for a Friends script too.
So just for the practice of writing a sitcom script that’s already plotted, do some research. Find an interesting story that’s already been done somewhere. Now suit that story to the characters you want to write about – the people who populate your favorite sitcom.
Write an entire script based on that plot line. It can be funny. Strangely enough, it can be original, too. If it’s well written, chances are that no one will recognize the original source.
In any event, it can be practice in writing a sitcom and in plotting them creatively.
Have fun writing something that’s already been written.