For those just catching up, ‘Tessa & Adam’ is a project that I am currently developing:
‘Tessa & Adam’ is a comedy web series that captures the idiosyncratic moments between born-and-bred British lad Adam and his Dutch expat partner Tessa. Told in short self-contained episodes and set in their modest but well appointed London flat, each episode revolves around a small intimate moment or quirky observation that parallels into a story that any couple can relate to.
I recently had five episodes read and critiqued at the London Comedy Writers group.
After a reading I always take some time to digest the feedback as well as my own thoughts.
It’s hard to judge by the reading alone if something is working. I’m not too attached to whether people laugh or not as it’s often a cold read for everyone concerned. That said I had plenty of smiles, a few giggles and some hearty chuckles, which is more than enough for me.
What you can tell from a solid reading though is whether the rhythm and pace is working and what jokes really land and what ones don’t and end up broken and dying in the dirt.
I never know what is going to work. Often I find the simplest things end up playing well, whereas some of my more crafted comedic moments get no love at all.
For me, it’s the feedback after the read that really counts. That’s where I get the little pearls of wisdom and sparks of inspiration that help me identify what needs working on so I can move forward.
So the consensus was that it is indeed funny and entertaining. Phew. I had a few comments like “I wasn’t bored”, which is a bit of a backhanded criticism, and “I don’t like them” or “I didn’t get it” but I can take that. They’re just opinions at the end of the day and there’s nothing I can do to change them.
I picked up a few simple things that I can fix, such as don’t put the punchline in the episode title, a true Brit would never eat tinned peas and there’s great comic potential in subtle racism.
Everyone liked the characters, especially Tessa. Adam could do with a bit of work. I need to make him commit more to his point-of-view and heighten his traits and characteristics – in short I need to give him some balls. After a long period of writing ineffectual emasculated male leads I’m more than happy to oblige on this front.
There was a great deal of discussion about what is the series hook and whether the characters are “likable” or “interesting” enough. With more discussion though this clarified down to, what is unique and interesting about Tessa and Adam’s relationship that unites them? Why are they together and why should we care?
And you know what, the group hit upon a really valid point. Now, I know why they are together and what makes their relationship interesting but I haven’t communicated that well enough in any of the episodes that I have written thus far.
Out of this reading there are four key things I now realise I need to do:
- I need to write a new pilot episode that sets up the characters and their relationship and also welcomes the audience into their world.
- I can use all the questions that people had about their relationship as subjects for future episodes to reveal more about them as the series progresses.
- I need to clarify the kind of character moments and story beats unique to this series that each episode will turn on.
- And I need to let my characters commit 110% to who they are because that is where comedy gold lies.
For me, ‘Tessa & Adam’ is about finding comedy in the smallness of things within a relationship – little observations, intimate moments or things that couples don’t normally talk about.
It’s never going to be high-concept or big and broad. At this point I have very little interest in what their lives are like in the outside world. There are plenty of other comedies out there that tackle families, work, politics, mates and society beautifully. I don’t need to compete with them. I just need to stay the course and hone what I am trying to achieve to the best of my ability.
That being said, the very last episode that was read and also the latest episode that I wrote (in a day I think) got the best response. People really connected with it and could see themselves in it, which is not something I would have expected.
It just goes to show that we all share more common experiences than we realise and that is what I’m betting will make ‘Tessa & Adam’ work.