How To Write a Sitcom

Illustration by Mike Lee

My friend Bean, now in his 30s, has never downed, snorted, smoked, shoved or shot up any drugs of any kind. Not even alcohol or marijuana. Bean grew up in a traditional Long Island–druggie household — his father had been a junkie; his uncle, I think, still is — so Bean thought it would be a good idea to rebel by not taking any drugs. Not even aspirin. Not even once. Don’t you wish you were Bean? On the other hand, no one — not even Bean’s wife — knows exactly what it is that Bean does do. But he doesn’t do drugs. Which is why it was so strange to find Bean sitting with me at my kitchen table in the middle of the night, cutting out pictures from a Sharper Image catalog and rearranging them into a storyboard for the popular television sitcom Fucking Siblings.

It started, innocently enough, with a photograph of a California ground squirrel, a gleeful showering man and an unfogging mirror. California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) generally live in burrows approximately 5 inches in diameter and between 5 and 35 feet in length. They hibernate deeply, in a state approaching suspended animation — heart rate about 10 percent of normal — for up to eight months of the year. When they’re awake, they rarely stray more than 80 or 90 feet from their burrows, and even more rarely shower. So I had no idea what this one was doing in a window beside such an excessively cheerful showering white man. Why was the man so happy? Was it because of the squirrel? Bean and I decided that it was because he was able to shower and shave simultaneously for the first time in his life thanks to his Deluxe 3X Fog-Free Mirror. We figured that this man was someone who needed a mirror to know what his face looks like — which part to shave, which part to leave alone — since he’d had only 25 shaving years in which to memorize the contours. The squirrel, which also seemed quite pleased about something, was in this man’s window because . . . we couldn’t decide. So we tore out the page, separated squirrel from man and set them side by side on the table. Then Bean tore out another picture — a Dynabrush Vibrating Toothbrush Holder, maybe — and placed it provocatively beside the others.

We were hooked. I brought in scissors from the kitchen, and we spent the next five hours clipping and tearing pictures from the catalog, juxtaposing them, arranging them into scenes all over the table. Platinum-finish ionic hair wands and shoe fresheners, sleek black turbo-groomers (featuring twin surgical-steel blades that rotate at 4,000 rpm), 24k gold-plated electric hair-removers, AcuVibe rechargeable personal massagers, everhappy people with expensive dental work on a Claritin® jag, moisturizing gel-lined gloves, magnetic knee supports, everything.

And everything made sense until we came across a picture of a brother and sister (or girlfriend and boyfriend) wearing red, white and blue ski clothes. They looked even happier than the squirrel, happier than the 40-ish man in the shower who needs a mirror to shave. The brother and sister (or girlfriend and boyfriend) looked almost identical: blond hair, blue eyes, flawless beige skin, perfect (or expensive) teeth. We couldn’t decide whether Sharper Image wanted us to believe they were siblings or lovers, so we cut them out, rearranged some of the other tabletop clippings and, close to dawn, created Fucking Siblings.

Loosely based on The Brady Bunch, Fucking Siblings follows the zany, two-dimensional antics of Dirk and Jennifer Sibling, a brother and sister who own a sporting-goods store in a clean, beige neighborhood and who spend time between scenes skiing and showering with a freshly dehibernated ground squirrel and Nick Jensen, their ne’er-do-well friend who lives in the shower with his wife, a Deluxe 3x Fog-Free Shower Mirror ($39.95). Bean left around 8 a.m., at which time I scanned our hard work and saved it on my trusty Micropolis 1.2AV hard drive, which died a week or two later.

The Official Maureen McCormick Home Page features free RealAudio clips from her fabulous CD When You Get a Little Lonely (Phantom Hill Records). Enjoy the brevity of “Go West,” “Tell Mama,” “Oh Boy!” and others, then order the CD for just $13.95 plus shipping. After it arrives, go to Barry Williams’ home page, where you’ll find more free RealAudio clips, video clips and even libretto clips from Barry’s CD The Return of Johnny Bravo. Choose “Johnny’s Back,” “Here Again” or “It’s a Sunshine Day.” Then spend 16 bucks on his CD and, when it arrives, leave it unopened for 30 years and sell it for $18,000.

The Unsquirrel Page contains useful links to articles, pictures, sounds and other sites of or about dolphins, hedgehogs, skunks, mockingbirds — anything but squirrels.

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