Miranda: The making of a sitcom

Monday 22 November 2010, 11:08

Miranda Hart Miranda Hart

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So, hello blog readers. Does that make you blogees? I like that, I'm going with that whether it's a word or not. The peeps at the BBC website thought you might want to know what goes in the making of a sitcom, so here goes it - an insight in to how my year pans out when making Miranda.

The writing is a long and arduous process and the least favourite part of it for me. It's not something I leap out of bed in the morning for. It requires patience (which I lack), discipline (which I lack), nerves of steel (which I lack), unending energy (which I lack) and hard core tea drinking and biscuit eating (this is where I excel).

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The first couple of months I spend storylining. I present my ideas to my storyliners who help with the bones of the stories. We discuss them and get the episodes in to some kind of logical structure.

This is the hardest part. Often a sitcom storyline is like a very complicated jigsaw and we will be surrounded by large A3 pieces of paper with various jottings. And I get a little anxious and stressed thinking it will never come together.

When the storylines eventually work themselves out I go away and write them in to a script. It can take me as little as five days to write a first draft.

But then it will take a further three to four weeks to really hone that draft, making sense of the story, cutting it down to the essential bones (I always over write massively on my first drafts) and of course making it as funny as possible.

The key, and hardest part with writing a studio audience sitcom, is having as many laugh out loud jokes and funny moments on the page as possible. Which is why I also have a gag writer to help me punch up the scripts and suggest specific jokes that I might be struggling with.

I think ideally one needs about eight months to write six episodes of a sitcom. Two months to pace about for ideas and then structuring the storylines and then a month on each episode to really hone it.

You don't always get the luxury of that amount of time, and it is of course quicker if you write with others, but writing solo it needs that long.

Once the scripts are handed in, the fun starts - pre-production. Suddenly you find yourself having meetings with costume designers about characters you have written, or the props department about how exactly you saw that 'grapefruit you wanted to have befriended'.

"Well obviously two eyes, a mouth, a comb-over and bowtie drawn on to it."

Bizarre conversations.

It's always a thrill to see your silly imaginings really happening and other people (in my case, a truly fantastic team) help bring what you wrote to life.

Miranda at a funeral

Then it's the first read through. Absolutely terrifying! We will have cast the show and everyone will be reading it for the first time in front of all the producers and heads of every department.

All I want to know is 'do people find it funny, will they laugh?' It's daunting reading the first few lines and I need a pathetic amount of reassurance that the scripts really are OK before I am convinced enough not to change my career path and go and set up a tea shop.

We do six days location filming - all the things we can't do on the main sets in front of an audience like parks, churches, streets, etc. And then we rehearse Wednesday to Saturday and do the show on a Sunday night in front of a live studio audience. Six episodes, six weeks.

I am very nervous all day on the Sunday and then when I hear that first laugh I start to relax and truly enjoy it - hearing your words get an immediate reaction from an audience is an amazing thing.

And then you just hope the 300 people in that room are right, it is funny, and the audience at home will like it. There is always something to worry about.

So from writing it until filming then editing it, the whole process is about 10 months. And then I tend to collapse in a heap and remain horizontal for as much as I can of the remaining two months of the year.

It is a dream come true having my own comedy show on the BBC, but, by golly, it is hard work and lots of pressure. Here's hoping it's worth it and you enjoy the second series. (No pressure on you!)

Bye blogees. Thanks for reading.


Miranda Hart is the writer, creator and star of Miranda.

Miranda is on BBC Two and BBC HD at 8.30pm on Mondays, finishing on Monday, 20 December.

Miranda will be introducing each episode of the sitcom on the BBC Comedy blog.

Comments made by writers on the TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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    Comment number 1.

    I'm enjoying this second series. It's gloriously silly and has a warm, retro feel. Despite it not seeming to live in the real world, I think Miranda's persona treads the line between eternal hope and constant disappointment, which arguably echoes what's going on right now in little old Blighty.

    I like the pieces to camera - I submitted a sitcom a while ago with these direct moments - and was advised it doesn't work. So good for Miranda Hart, proving that it can. As a writer for theatre, it's interesting to read the blog and see how much of a team is involved in script work, very different from my solitary process as a playwright.

    I do think that with so much at stake for the title character, the other players can sometimes fall a little flat by being overwhelmed by the physical comedy and verbal slapstick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    This was such a good read, and a great insight into the sitcom scene. Thanks. Really enjoy the show - you scratch where I itch, if that's not too personal a comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I absolutely LOVE 'Miranda'. It is such a funny, light-hearted look on a single gal's life - so like my life unfortunately :) The private school, girly banter with ridiculous words & phrases, the obsession with finding a man, embarrassing oneself daily and putting up with the most annoying but well-meaning mother. Fantastic stuff, I look forward to Monday evening each week. Keep up the good work!

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    Comment number 4.

    I can't tell you, well actually, I can tell you how I love your sit-com. The "cut to camera" and the waving at the end is just absolutely supericious!

    I can now tell you that I completely missed the whole of the first series although I have seen lots of clips ("I will break your swimming pool!!!")

    I shall be buying the series once its out on DVD and I shall reflect on it with complete and utter familiarity.

    I did fall off the sofa when Miranda passed wind after curtseying!!

    If I knew "Miranda", she would be my bestest friend!

    Darren (37 years old)


  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Thanks for posting the blog, It was a really good read! I must say I very much enjoyed being one of your blogees!

    Series Two is amazing! As soon as it starts I'm pretty much rolling around on the floor laughing and that continues till the end =P I really hope I get to be in the live studio audience some time! Keep up the great work!


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