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Customer Review

24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disorganised and Disappointing, 25 Aug. 2011
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This review is from: How Not to Write a Sitcom: 100 Mistakes to Avoid If You Ever Want to Get Produced (Writing Handbooks) (Paperback)
Disappointingly unclear and ill-conceived: Mark Blake makes the same (confused) 5 points over and over again throughout his book, regularly contradicting himself in the same sentence. He generally constructs his argument by saying "Do X. We know X works because they did it in The Office/Peep Show/Only Fools and Horses/Friends. Don't do Y. We know Y doesn't work because no one's done it before." This is useful in terms of spotting examples of sitcom convention, but he never satisfyingly delves into the reasons behind the conventions, leaving the reader slightly mystified as to exactly what wisdom he's passing on besides "watch loads of sitcoms and do what they did, only different".

Blake assumes his reader is an arrogant, lazy 20 year old man. I'm an arrogant, lazy 20 year old man, but I found this book sexist and thoughtless. My favourite nugget of advice was "Don't forget: women are people too. So you have to give them proper characters, and not just make them plot devices." Also, "With women, it's not always just about chocolate. Though usually it is." Thanks, Mark for that searing insight. If I were reading this book as a woman, the clear message would be: leave the sitcom to the boys, you get on with being a Real Person. Here's some Dairy Milk to get you started.

If you're hoping for a clear and deeply reasoned deconstruction of sitcom mechanics, then don't bother with this book. I was hoping for a Britcom version of Snyder's Save The Cat or McKee's Story, but this book reads more like a pompous unfunny set of lecture notes (which I suspect is exactly what it is) than an astute and insightful guide to understanding and creating sitcom.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Oct 2011 17:38:20 BDT
Flora Cake says:
I think that you are the first 20yo man to actually admit he is arrogant! Blake sounds like an idiot - he could have looked at Ab Fab, one of the best British sitcoms - female written, driven etc. NOT that much chocolate in it as far as I recall, but one of the funniest things I have had the pleasure of seeing.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Oct 2011 20:43:17 BDT
I absolutely LOVE Ab FAb. The writer of the review concerning chocolate clearly did not understand the concept of a 'joke' or ironic comment. The section was intended to flag up the paper-thin female characters that many male writer's produce. The book is aimed at the novice rather than the professional and believe you me, most of the hundreds of scripts I receive are by people who have neither studied the form nor applied themselves at all to the rigours of writing. I tried to put this in a witty way, which, I guess, is easily misunderstood.

Posted on 29 Oct 2011 11:14:07 BDT
B. Hulley says:
Your review reads as an arrogant 20 year old man too. If you're looking for a a golden formula to writing the perfect sitcom - then you should already know that no such thing exists. Each new show that graces our screens has always pushed the idea of sitcom that little bit further. Blake is simply telling you the things to avoid to improve your chances of getting it made. And if you can't laugh at Marc's witticisms - well then perhaps the joke's on you?

Posted on 7 Feb 2012 09:27:00 GMT
Deborah says:
As a non-arrogant, 30-something black woman who's actually read the book, I think Blake has produced a piece of work that is very informative and surprisingly insightful. I found it a great tool to help me get started and I found his references to female driven and (albeit briefly) black-led sitcoms particularly helpful. I read the book as a woman (it was the only way I could read it!) and then felt encouraged and equipped to write my own. After a bar of Dairy Milk of course.

Posted on 25 Sep 2012 10:02:03 BDT
Last edited by the author on 25 Sep 2012 10:09:36 BDT
As a forty-something woman, I too have actually read the book and found a complete armory of ideas to take my writing forward. It was interesting to have taken my first stab at sitcom writing on invitation from a man who has written for TV before, who found me on Twitter and literally jumped for joy when I sent him a section of dialogue for his female characters as a test to see if we could work together. His verdict? 'You write women SO much better than I do.' Marc has a point to make, and makes it very well and after many years of critiquing scripts, he should know where peoples weaknesses lie - so my guess is that highlighting a tendency to write women badly, is probably because (I guess) some people do. And I, as a non arrogant woman, could pick out the irony in his comments very well. But then, I write comedy and recognise irony when I see it. Furthermore, I write it in a much more informed way since I read Marc's book.
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