Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Mitch Hurwitz's Guide to Getting a Sitcom Cancelled

Mitch Hurwitz has become somewhat of a poster boy for good things getting cancelled. Despite Arrested Development lasting a comparatively-long three seasons, the show's cancellation still causes comedy nerds to get all verklempt at its mere mention. And his most recent show, Running Wilde, only made it halfway through its first season. So he's sort of an expert on how to get networks to give you the axe. Which is the focus of his new piece for the Guardian, conveniently enough.

He's got some good advice! On complicated plots:

If in your particular medium an audience is used to a simple plotline or maybe one or two stories, see if you can get eight in there, and find a way that they somehow intertwine. Also, it's important that you have a lot of anxiety when they don't intertwine, sufficient to deprive yourself of sleep so that you are miserable during the production of the show – but then upon completion of the show, you're guaranteed to be miserable, because nobody will watch it.

On sex:

They'll never admit it, but viewers love sex. In fact, they love any sort of titillation, with the exception of incest. So focus on that.

On naming characters:

Audiences tend to run from confusion. So a show, for instance, where one character is named George Michael, one character is named Michael, one character is named George and one character is named George Oscar (and perhaps another character is named Oscar), will be the kind of show you can almost guarantee people won't develop a fondness for.

Oh, Mitch. This is funny and also kind of sad. But really, what are you doing writing articles for the Guardian? Don't you have a certain movie to be writing? The mob can't be held off with rumors and vague promises forever, pal.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Mischnick/699648889 Michael Mischnick

    While I love Arrested Development as much as nearly any other show in the history of television, Running Wilde was not a good show (unless it got better after the first few episodes). It had lazy writing and bad characters (even David Cross, whom I normally love, was terrible). It deserved to die a quick and painful death.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Seck/1383864268 Steve Seck

      yeah, uh.. i tuned in for the duration of running wilde, but it never got any better than "eh, maybe next week will be when the show takes off".

      so really, mitch hurwitz is the poster boy for following up one great show that was lamentably cancelled after 52 episodes with two mediocre shows (yes, "sit down, shut up" DID happen) that were rightly canned after a handful of airings.
      honestly, the dude needs to get himself a show on cable that might not pay as much as network but would guarantee steady work & creative fulfillment for a few years.

    • http://mattpayton.tumblr.com/ BobSacamano

      Thank you – Running Wilde was awful and it's good that they canceled it. The whole show just didn't make enough sense to justify the plot/premise. Will Arnett and Hurwitz are way better than that.

  • http://mattpayton.tumblr.com/ BobSacamano

    If I created one of the most beloved sitcoms of the last 20 years and I got 2 1/2 spectacular seasons out of it I would have a hard time sporting a persecution complex and talking about the show like it was a failure. But that's just me.