View Full Version : Sitcom Idea: Paid In Full (Please comment)

May 2nd, 2013, 02:04 AM

I'm requesting comments on the following. Please be brutal. Right now I'm trying to figure out if this idea is a non-starter or if I should work on it more. So...


In a nutshell:
It's a two-room sitcom about bill collectors.

Other Similar Sitcoms:
The Office/Taxi/Barney Miller

The Big Theme:
Being Broke.

Not just people being in debt, but the characters as well. Everyone is, to some extent or another, broken. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Nobody goes into collections unless there is something seriously wrong with them. This sitcom is about the people who have basically come to the nadir of their lives.

As the first season unfolds:
Some will rise to meet the challenges and better themselves.
Some will wallow in the pit of misery they find themselves,remaining trapped in the mire of their lives.
Others will embrace the fail to become an anti-success, reviling in the pain and suffering they cause and basically becoming the pain they endure.

Oh yeah, plenty of black, sarcastic humor and wacky situations.

The main room is the collection floor. This is where most of the events unfold. The collectors work here, but between calls spend time exchanging witty banter in order to stave off insanity.

Secondary location is the owner's office. This is where all the private conversations take place. Either with the owner, or he'll be out and the workers will just step in, when they need to speak privately about something.

Dramatis Personae:
Like most sitcoms, there will be a central core unit of main characters, a smattering of primary antagonists, and a blizzard of bizarre secondary characters who wander in and out of their lives. (note, the names are just place holders)

Main Characters:
Joe Everyguy: This is who the first episode focuses on. Joe Everyguy is a normal guy who, due to the economy and downsizing is forced to find a new job. He starts working at The Agency "just to pay the bills." He fully plans to quit as soon as he "finds a real job", but that will never happen. It is through his eyes that we are introduced to the rest of the cast. His character arc is to be the straight man, the one sane man in an insane world. Honest and trustworthy, Joe is not cut out for being a bill collector, but will eventually find a way to keep his job without losing his integrity. He will be tested time and time again to compromise his principles, but he will resist and be stronger for it. His is the heroes journey. He views himself as a failure for having to switch careers. He is broken in that he has no self-esteem.

Freaky Savant: Socially inept, this character is amazingly brilliant at solving problems, but can't seem to do anything else. A wizard at analyzing Credit Bureau Reports and finding money debtors are hiding, he has a long history that will be doled out in bits and pieces about horrible things he's done for other people when they recognized his talent. He works as a bill collector because he knows The Boss and recognizes that The Boss has no ambition. While he just wants to collect his paycheck and go home, he also desires friends so he does "favors" for the other collectors. He often warns them that what they want isn't a good idea, but he helps them anyways. He is sort of like a genie, in that he grants your wish, but you should be very specific. He is broken in that he lacks ability to understand the people around him.

Pornstar Mustache: I think I'm going to call him Mr. Mann. He's a middle aged man who never grew up with a seventies pornstar mustache. By far the most brutal and self-absorbed of the bunch, he provides the steroetypical over sexed male role. I find him the least appealing of the characters, but I have a feeling that he is almost mandated by the genre. Unlike other versions of this character, he is going to be working as a bill collector because his two divorced wives have taken him to the cleaner. He has two jobs, with this one off the books, because if his ex-wives ever found out, they'd take all the money he makes at this job as well. He is broken in that he is addicted to vice. Drinking, Gambling, chasing skirts, that sort of thing.

Mail Order Bride: A mail order bride from Russia, she is a blond bombshell with a russian accent who has a dead beat husband who she's hiding from. She's working at The Agency because the boss is a sucker for hot women and is also paying her under the table. She doesn't mind the work, and finds the American way of handling collections, "Quaint" She's rather blunt, drinks like a sailor, and not above using sex as a weapon. She's broken in so much as that she has trust issues.

Ugly Stripper: An aging stripper who's not that good looking, but thinks she's that good looking, works here to make extra money. The fact is, she passed her prime about ten years ago, but simply has no other way of paying the bills, as she never developed any other job skills. The Boss knew her back when, so he's giving her a job now. Old and bitter, her knickname is "The Nostril" as she puts her nose in everyone's business. She and Mail Order Bride are rivals. She is broken in that she's in denial.

Cool Guy: Cool guy is a wanna-be actor who is forced to stay in the area because he fears taking risks and failing. As such, his options are very limited. He is indeed, a cool guy, but it's mostly superficial. He is desperate for approval of others so he is by far the friendliest member of the cast. He acts as the mediator and go between who keeps everything running smoothly. He is the second in command and does all the real work. He's slick and sly and a real charmer, but he is also a dreamer who is always chasing after unrealistic goals. He is broken in that he is afraid of change and taking risks.

Bill Collector: This is the only professional bill collector in the agency. He is an enigma. He's an old guy who never speaks above a grunt. He shows up out of no where, works maybe one day a month, but some how always makes his quota. He possesses an almost supernatural ability to scare the ever living crap out of people just by talking to you. The audience never hears what he says, he just leans in, whispers into your ear, and the victim turns white. He's reserved for season two, but we want to establish his character in the first season, so people will find it interesting when we finally hear him speak. His character is left open until season two.

Bitter Guy: Bitter guy is just that. He had a good carreer, he lost it, now he's working here. he's doing okay, but he's bitter, cynical, and driven away everyone around him. He looks always on the blacker side of things and enjoys saying funny things about how horrible things are. He's driven away his wife and all of his family. He thinks everyone on the planet is a liar and that there is no hope. Since we are all doomed anyways, we might as well enjoy watching the world burn. However, he still is, secretly, a nice guy. From time to time, he will do nice things for his co-workers, but only the audience will know. He is broken in that he cannot trust anyone anymore and is very, very lonely, but cannot open up enough to ask for help.

The Boss: The boss is a large mammal. He is a man who has eaten way too much food in order to compensate for the guilt he feels at running this place, guilt that he is in complete denial over. He was once a bill collector, but thought he could do better and opened his own place. He runs a small office with a number of clients who use him for his "less then orthodox" methods. He flaunts the law and in general is a nice guy to work for, but utterly ruthless to his enemies and the debtors that he hounds. He actually avoids being at the office as much as possible, because he dislikes having to work. As long as the place makes money, he's willing to let Cool Guy run the place. He is broken in that he sold out all his principles to get rich, and now he hates himself for doing it.

Government Inspector: This guy is from the government and hates The Boss, because The Boss breaks so many rules. The problem is proving it. GI isn't well liked by his peers and is the very definition of Zealot. He's a total asshole who hates bill collectors because they are all scumbags who flaunt the law and torture people by phone. This is ironic because he is willing to break the law to finally pin something on The Boss, and he enjoys the power he has over others to make them squirm. He is broken in that he has become the very monsters he tries to destroy.

Greedy Client: There will be a few of these. Greedy Clients are simply here to cause trouble for the office.

Dodging Debtors: There will be a few regulars, but these are the guys that the bill collectors say funny things to.

Psychotic Debtor: This is the guy who shows up with a gun and takes the office hostage. He's off his medication and dangerous, but in a humorous way.

Poisonous Co-Worker: This guy will be made out to be the main character's main rival. He will be the obvious bad guy with all the obvious bad guy traits. Episode three, the FBI will show up and arrest him for stealing money from people's credit cards and never be seen again. Occationally he'll be referenced in later episodes.

Hyper-Peppy Office manager: After Poisonous Co-Worker is discovered to be stealing money, Hyper-Peppy Office manager will be hired in order to make sure that no more illegal crap is going on. Her attempts to make the office a more "happy place" and institute crazy HR policies drive the workers insane.

Sample Episode Ideas:

Introductions: We meet everyone. Joe Everyman tries to get a bonus check his first month. He almost fails, but Bitter Guy Calls in off a blocked cellphone to do a fake check over the phone at the last minute. JE makes his quota and keeps his job, but has to work twice as hard next month to make up for the bounced check.

Hyper-Peppy Office Manager replaces the bell that they ring every time someone gets a payment with a small dancing stuffed animal that sings an annoying song. The episode is based around how many ways they can destroy that stuffed animal and the out of control arms race between HPOM and the bill collectors.

Freaky Savant figures out how someone has been stealing money from the client, confronts them, then accidentally scares the crook into giving the money to Freaky Savant to avoid going to prison. Freaky puts the payment against the debts in collection. Freaky Savant winds up making the office millions and makes a thirty thousand dollar bonus check for himself. He has no idea what to do with the money.

Well, that's what I got right now. I have a number of gags and jokes and plot arcs, but they're kind of just scribbles at the moment. Basically, I'm just looking for suggestions and comments. For example, "ARE YOU ON CRACK???" or, "Nice imagery. Do you have any children? Not that I would call child protective services or anything..." You know, positive feedback and such.

Worth Expanding or To The Circular File?

May 19th, 2013, 01:26 AM
You should produce this as an animated sit-com...starting with Kickstarter.

Staff Deployment
May 19th, 2013, 07:46 AM
[british accent] All well 'n good mate, but don't you suppose you ought to write a fair bit 'fore you start talkin' it up?

Cheerio chap chap and a great todger football the Queen! Tea 'n crumpets bugger croissant [/british accent]

May 19th, 2013, 12:03 PM
I've personally had enough of sitcoms about severely dysfunctional people. It seems a bit of an out-dated concept. It also, however, reminds a bit of Dead Meat, Phone Shop and The IT Crowd - all of which are still airing. The set-up reminds me of a casino I used to work in which may also be why I don't like it. Everyone used to say there was a sitcom in that place but the truth was that a sitcom based on events in that place would damage the fabric of society if ever aired. If you like it, write an episode, see how the characters develop but I would, personally, put in another female character that wasn't the dregs of society (hooker, mail-order bride, HR!).

May 25th, 2013, 01:37 AM
Well, I thank you for the input. I do value your suggestions. Actually, I didn't really make any of these people up, I worked with all of them, although these guys are a combination of people. 15 years in 6 different agencies, you tend to pick up a great deal of oddness. Honestly, I can't think of a normal female that worked at any of those places. I think you have a point. Ironically, a well-adjusted female character would be the only truly fictional concept. I'll rework the "pilot", as it were.

June 11th, 2013, 01:50 AM
To me, it looks like you have the 'sit' down pat. You know your set and your characters. It's not clear to me yet that you have a journey for the main protagonists, nor who they actually are from the ensemble - but nonetheless, I'm sure those journeys are there in your head, and the 'sit' is clear.

What there's no indication of is the 'com'. Gargh is right in that this looks like a dysfunctional crowd - but that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be meanspirited. It reminds me in setup of The Smoking Room, which was a stonking piece of comedy with a set of very dysfunctional characters who, nonetheless, engaged the audience and with whom it was easy to get emotionally attached. But it all comes down to your style of comedy: do you want to write stuff about triumph over adversity with largely supportive players (cf. Gavin and Stacey)? Or something darker and meaner (which doesn't have to be a bad thing)?

Time to unveil the 'com', I'd say.

April 5th, 2014, 02:16 AM
Yep, maybe you can sell it with your eternal soul to Hollywood. Seriously, I'd watch it. But I don't know how you get a sitcom on TV. There must be a way. Good luck. It seems to be well developed in terms of the characters.

April 5th, 2014, 09:30 AM
Hi captnq: Stay with it. I think it has as good a chance as any. Every sit-com has to have it's share of 'dysfuncts'. Your cupboard of characters seem well thought through. I wouldn't worry too much about 'arcs'. If it's successful the audience won't want their favourite characters to change, nor will the sponsors.

You know the business you're writing about and, importantly, what can go wrong.

I worry about debt collecting by phone. I don't think I could watch that for very long.

The pilot is the biggest hurdle. It's ridiculously hard on the writer to ask him to sell new characters, make the audience laugh and fit a plot line in all in 23 minutes (30 for the BBC).

If you've got as far as describing the office I'm sure you've written the pilot. Have you shown it to anyone?