Comedies Need Anchors

Posted Pete Bauer Novel, Writing

In order for comedies to be successful there needs to be an anchor in reality. Without one, the show becomes untethered and floats away into frivolousness.

psychA current example of this is the show Psych. I’ve always been a fan of the show because of its overt silliness and funny writing. In the show, Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Burton Guster (Dule Hill) are childhood friends who create a fake psychic detective agency using Spencer’s unique gift of observation as the source of his psychic visions.

Spencer and Guster get into some insanely idiotic situations and it is their chemistry and comedic talents that make the show work. However, their success is predicated on the comedy existing in world that we consider “real enough.” Their assumptions and behavior are so absurd that it only works because everyone else is shocked at their schtick.

That’s what ties the show to reality and the core of that anchor was filled by two roles on the show, the police chief (Kirsten Nelson) and Spencer’s father (Corbin Bersen).

As the show winds down its run, both of those characters have been missing in action and the police chief was replaced by a nut job as equally inappropriate, yet more dangerous, as Spencer, played by Anthony Michael Hall.

With Hall as chief, the show lost its anchor. It went from a world that you could almost believe could actually exist, maybe, to a world that would never exist in the real world. No one like Hall’s character would ever move up the food chain of the police force to be chief. Ever. So everything he does, says, proposes and executes is looked at with disbelief and displeasure.

Too many comedic chefs in the kitchen.

The result of this is that the show loses its footing and becomes silliness for sillinesses sake. Instead of being interesting and funny, it’s now meaningless while trying to be funny.

It simply doesn’t work.

Humor, whether it is in television, film or novels, is funny if its anchored in reality. Otherwise, it’s just forgettable fluff.

2 Comments on “Comedies Need Anchors

  • tony says:

    Enjoyed the article and provided some insight for the screenplay I’m working on. Thanks!

    • sonlightpicturesblog says:

      That’s great! I’m glad I could help, indirectly 🙂

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