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See Your Favorite Sitcom Without The Gags, And Learn About Screenwriting, With “No Jokes, All Plot”

It’s surprisingly effective storytelling, if you ignore how dumb the jokes are.

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For the most-watched sitcom on television, The Big Bang Theory can be contentious: fans love the show, but people who are jealous that their favorite sitcoms are under constant threat of cancelation resent the show’s easy setup-punchline joke formula and what they see as tired plots.

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Friends

But as the videos from YouTube user “Tunglebreak” make clear, the plotting on The Big Bang Theory–like that on Seinfeld and Friends–is actually very clear, crisp screenwriting structure. The videos remove the jokes, and instead focus strictly on the plot of each episode: Sheldon decides he wants to live long enough to see the Singularity in act one, decides that he’s more likely to live longer if he stays safe at home and lives his life with a telepresence-style tablet robot in act two, and then risks the real world to meet Steve Wozniak and get his Apple II computer signed by the Apple co-founder, proving that there are some things that have to be experienced in person. In a two-minute edit, The Big Bang Theory fully embraces the basics of screenwriting structure and uses them to effectively tell a story. Shows like Friends and Seinfeld, meanwhile, run significantly longer in their joke-free forms (as much as a full minute) to accommodate various subplots.

Seinfeld

Regardless of your opinion of a show like The Big Bang Theory, it’s interesting to see it recontextualized like this: at the very least, it makes it clear that even if you hate the show, it’s fine storytelling–that just happens to be full of dumb jokes.

(h/t the A.V. Club)

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club

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