Friday, January 21, 2005

[lovebites] Reviewing Episode 1

So this combines a review of both the script and execution of our pilot episode.

Phil arrives back from Australia, much to Maryann’s displeasure. These two used to go out and they haven’t dealt with the fallout of their bitter break-up.

When Phil sleeps with Maryann’s best potential flatmate, things deteriorate.

When Phil proposes they fix the situation by sleeping together, things deteriorate further. They agree to try to be polite to each other around their friends, but Ben can’t stand the tension and forces them to take the gloves off.

Meanwhile, as Phil moves into the Boys’ Flat, Richard cleans up the spare room. In the process he discovers his beanbag, his precious beanbag. Quickly becoming obsessive about it, he’s shocked to learn Phil had sex on it with Maryann’s best potential flatmate. His obsession turns to addiction – and Ben decides to help him kick the habit.


Takes a while to warm up, reaches its peak in Act 2 and then – after a slight dip – has a strong finish.

Continue reading this unedited review ...

This show has funny lines, but that’s not where the comedy comes from. Usually the scenes are just conversational with tiny punches of sarcasm and then out-of-the-blue character weirdness. The fun is in the structure not the dialogue.

Phil’s war-story about how he slept with Monique is funny because seeing how the 3 boys behave under pressure and because it’s combining (for the first time) the ‘flatmates wanted’ and the ‘beanbag’ plots.

The moment where Richard’s love of the beanbag turns into addiction wasn’t handled so well. It’s a big turning point in his sub-plot but we haven’t quite laid enough ground-work to convince people his obsessive behaviour round the bag could be so negative. We also don’t show an effective funny beat of him trying to give up before he goes into withdrawal.

Richard doesn’t get an A-plot (the main story of an episode) for quite some time.

The plot development that Phil and Maryann are going to try and be polite to each other, but that their compliments seethe with a subtext of rage and resentment, came from an earlier version of Episode 1 and may not have been integrated perfectly into this version. In fact, due to time constraints some of the beats that made this schtick really funny had to be eliminated.

Should talk about:
Changing the ‘Flatmates ad’ scene from the Basin Reserve to Oriental Parade.


The show starts to get funny by Teaser 3 … (the beginning of every episode is divided into 3 short scenes between credits that usually set up the A-plot). This is important because – in my memory – the show was quite dead in the first third.

The situation is introduced very fast and the story keeps progressing quickly through the whole episode.

I like the character relationships (at a script level) from the first scene. Also at the script level, the characters are solid and consistent (and funny).

By Act 2, the show is definitely settling down into the style that I recognise as lovebites: relaxed bullshitting conversations and characters who I’m really interested to see what they do next.

Phil’s war-story about Monique is cool. And it’s really our first ‘Boys’ scene, which would turn out to be one of our specialities. In that vein, there’s another huge scene in the pub where the Boys discuss their philosophies on relationships that I thought was awesome.

Phil’s plan to fix the situation by sleeping together and Maryann’s disbelieving response are both fun.

It’s also great that Mia (playing Maryann) actually does get a load of great material in this episode and she knocks it out of the park most of the time.

Richard’s love of the Bag and his withdrawal are fun and visual – playing to Adam’s strength.

Ben taking control and forcing his friends to not be pleasant is a fun solid scene and an enjoyable pay-off to their plot.

[Got to compile some killer quotes from this episode.]


I’m sure there was another sit-com that used a beanbag in one of their sub-plots, but I have no idea what it was.


If we were to redo lovebites from scratch, I’d mess the relationship map up a lot and have Ben and Maryann going out. You see, the ‘They’re meant to be together’ tension we tried to instill in those two’s relationship (aka The Ross and Rachel effect) never really worked. So this’d give us something they were trying to keep from Phil, some subtext, at least 4 episodes worth of material and another big plot point to detonate.

Also, there was a point in Episode 1 where Ben was just grinning gormlessly at Richard, waiting for him to stuff up. I liked that energy – it’s almost Jerry from Seinfeld – it gives Ben’s character a cool edge which I think he needed.


Hate the teasers (which introduce the idea of Phil returning from Australia) because I can see how I would restructure them, turning stuff that is just exposition into actual scenes with conflict. Man, that’s the worst thing about working on something – you figure out how to do it ‘properly’ 2 years too late.

Performances in the teasers and the early half of Act 1 are sometimes too big. It feels like they’re still settling in and trying to impress the audience, win them over. I wonder whether that’s because so many of the early scenes have exposition in them and that the actors felt that that made the scenes ‘weak’ – and therefore they had to do more to sell them, make them more interesting.

There’s some lameness in the early conversational exchanges. The banter isn’t quite fluid yet. Not sure about the cause of that, not sure what order scenes were shot in. But this episode was filmed late in the production schedule, so the actors must have been comfortable playing with each other.

Ha! There’s a really funny sound effects moment when we cut to the ocean and hear a foghorn. Of course. Because we won’t register it’s the ocean without a foghorn. ADR during this scene is pretty bad.

The ‘Phil and Maryann try to be polite’ stuff doesn’t work so well. We don’t get enough shots of Ben observing that something’s wrong. That means we lack an outsider’s perspective on their relationship to really hammer home that something’s wrong.

Oh, and the bowling montage is ick.

But hey, most of my problems are centred on the first 5 minutes of the episode. That’s not too bad from an overall point of view. It’s just, from a sales point of view, those 5 minutes needed to be the strongest.


I used to dislike Act 1 (the act I had the most responsibility for writing) but now I watch it with some distance, it moves fast and it’s pretty amusing.

Quite often through the episode I sensed the actors focusing on trying to impress (and being pleased with themselves) instead of finding the comedy. It was a really fine line – and despite that impression, for the majority of the episode they nailed their characters and nailed them hard.

Also, it’s great seeing the actors become laid back and enjoying themselves. And by the end of the episode – at the picnic – I really like this ensemble, want to see more of them.


So that’s a first-draft itemisation of the things that struck me while re-watching the pilot. I’ll finetune it into a review later.

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