If you want to write a sitcom episode and have a prayer that it will one day see the light of day, let alone a slot on network television, each episode must fit this canonized structure:
  • Standard length
    23 minutes in the US, 25 in the UK. Included in this are no more than 60 seconds of opening titles and 90 seconds of credits at the end. Each scene is 2-3 minutes long.
  • The Teaser: 2-3 minutes before credits
    Establishes location, characters, and an initial, self-contained gag which does not introduce the primary conflict but may allude to a potential secondary conflict.

    Titles, commercial break

  • Act One: 7-8 minutes
    Scene 1: Introduces protagonist of primary conflict (A) and establishes that conflict.
    Scene 2: Introduces protagonist of secondary conflict (B) and establishes that conflict. Compared to the primary conflict, this is a trivial situation that can be easily resolved by the protagonist of A.
    Scene 3: Develops conflict of A. Things start to unravel for the protagonist.

    Commercial break

  • Act Two: 7-8 minutes
    Scene 1: The A protagonist discovers a solution to his/her problem.
    Scene 2: The B protagonist bumbles, searching for a solution. The audience knows that he/she will not find a solution, and know that the solution is attainable only by the A protagonist.
    Scene 3: The A protagonist implements the solution to his/her problem. The audience sees that the solution is successful, but the resolution is not fully developed.

    Commercial break

  • Finale: 3-4 minutes
    Scene 1: Resolution of A conflict is completed, and the A protagonist reflects on the lessons he/she has learned.
    Scene 2: Resolution of B conflict by A protagonist, in a manner that the audience finds funny at the expense of the B protagonist. The show ends with a laugh.

    Roll credits, commercials
Play, recycle, repeat weekly.

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