Recently I’ve been watching a lot of content from CC Studios, the digital development branch of Comedy Central. The site features a collection of original web series that the network is developing and incubating in hopes that some will soon be ready for the big time. I like to browse the site studying what works and what doesn’t.
Welcome back. New Timers is a post-apocalyptic buddy comedy written by, directed by and starring Matt Porter and Charlie Hankin of the sketch project Good Cop Great Cop. Here’s one thing I love about it:
The first scene of their pilot gives me everything I need.
Since discovering the series, I have recommended New Timers to a half-dozen people. Each time, I find myself recounting the opening scene of the pilot beat-for-beat:
We open on two roommates in an apartment. One is busy squirting condiments into an empty toolbox. He explains that he is preparing a dip for a party later that evening. The two roommates talk ingredients and fall into an inane dispute about the correct pronunciation of the spice “cumin.” They leave the apartment to buy more ingredients, and we discover that their street is a bombed-out post-apocalyptic hell. Sirens blair, panicked survivors sprint past, and the two roommates — seemingly oblivious to it all — arrive at the burning shell of a convenience store that they swear was there yesterday.
Cue title sequence.
In under two minutes, the pilot has already launched me into the world of the show. I get a taste of the dynamic between our two main characters and their odd unfazed calm in the face of society’s collapse. It already has me salivating for more, wondering how these two friends will deal with the harrowing challenges of post-apocalyptic society. What dumb minutiae will they fixate on in each episode, and at what cost? Most importantly, this one scene gives me a way to advocate for the series. Their advertising isn’t an email full of links or requests to subscribe. It’s not a press packet with high res photos. It’s something more powerful: concise funny writing so good that I want to retell it word-for-word.
The show is a reminder for comedy performers and writers, at any point in their career, to take a moment to think about whatever they are writing. Does the first scene encapsulate your whole piece? Is it strong enough that a fan of your work would describe it word-for-word to other potential fans? Does it make the reader hungry for more? If not, what are you waiting for?