A sitcom without jokes is like a porn without sex scenes—pointless. But sitcom story lines, at the very least, are useful technical exercises for all the aspiring TV writers out there. (The same can’t be said of porn, except for maybe as object lessons in how not to write realistic female characters.) The Big Bang Theory, for example, follows a pretty standard three-act structure, a structure that is laid bare in the aptly named The Big Bang Theory | NO JOKES, ALL PLOT from YouTube user Tunglebrek. Friends, too, is all setup/conflict/resolution, only with two parallel subplots. But what about the show about nothing? Seinfeld’s underlying structure becomes more obvious with (most of) the jokes taken out, and its multiple intersecting plot points make the jokeless version 20 seconds longer than the Friends video and a full minute and a half longer than The Big Bang Theory’s. Whether that makes it a better show or simply a more complex one is a matter of taste (that’s what a writer from The Big Bang Theory would say, anyway).
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