Sunday, January 02, 2005

[lovebites] Nothing says comedy like a pregnant dying wife

Then, of course, there was the question of "Phil's Secret". We spend a lot of time changing our minds about what exactly had happened to Phil in Australia. A direct continuation of the movie would have him sexually experimenting, possibly coming back gay (or omni-sexual, in our most far-out brainstorming moments), or possibly straight ... because he'd "you know, worked through all that". Another option was that he'd gotten married over there - and then divorced. Or left his wife pregnant. Our worst idea - and, I'm sorry to say, mine - was that his wife was dying and that Phil had run off and left her. I know: pure comedy there. I should tell you about the end-of season-cliffhanger idea I had where she'd come back to confront him, sometime. Hilarious.

That led on - soon after, I hope - to considering whether Phil was dying. I think we could have stretched that out over a couple of seasons and it would have added this adult and grounded tone that I think the show could have benefited from.

What we finally settled on was that he'd been fired, for incredibly embarrassing reasons, from his job in Australia. The anecdote behind that got written in Episode 15, and I'll probably relate it there ... but here's the thing.

Phil's Secret never worked.

You know, we wanted to use it but, as they say in TV-land, we couldn't make it play. Maybe our hearts weren't in it. Maybe it became a distraction from the job of telling funny 23-minute long stories. I suspect part of the reason is the rule we adopted in our storylining sessions. Whereas Seinfeld had "No hugs, no lessons," we had "No secrets, no bets." We were sick of this trend in sit-coms to artificially change characters' behaviours by imposing an external force on them. We just wanted our characters to be themselves.

(BTW: The episode where we did have a bet, between Ben and Clare, was one of our funniest episodes - and KEY to making Clare a part of the group. So, good rule. Pleased I thought of a way to make our lives more difficult.)

In the end, it became this vestigal idea from our original conception of how the series would run. Having already written and shot the 8 episodes after the pilot, we knew Phil's Secret didn't feature at all in them ... so it couldn't be such a big deal in our first episode - or else we'd be creating false expectations in our audience about what the series was about. And then afterwards, when we realised it wasn't going to be a big deal, we just wanted to give it the bare minimum of acknowledgement and move on.

Mission accomplished.

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