Student-produced sitcom to hit Penn airwaves

Trishula Patel
Daily Pennsylvanian
November 8, 2010

Penn students beware: that great anecdote you love telling far and wide may well become the inspiration for an episode of a television show.

This semester, a group of Penn students is in the process of creating and shooting a television show to be made at Penn and primarily aimed at students.

"There's a big unfilled niche on campus for a really creative college-specific comedy," College sophomore and television show co-producer Logan Bayroff said.

To that end, this group of about 40 students will be involved in the direction, production, writing, shooting and acting of a comedic television show throughout the year.

The group will work in conjunction with UTV13 , which will provide equipment, funding and advertising, according to College sophomore and Under the Button blogger Kelly Diamond, who came up with the initial idea. They will also help with finding actors if needed. While the cast will consist of mostly student actors, adult actors will also be sought out to play older characters, Bayroff said.

The Kelly Writers House has also offered to create a website on which all the episodes will be aired week to week.

"The Writers House is delighted to support Kelly's efforts in any way we can," Writers House Director Jessica Lowenthal said. "We'll certainly help spread the word to help get the project off the ground, and we'll host the show on our media server to that it will have a permanent home."

"We at the Writers House are utterly behind such creative ventures and are pleased to provide the video streaming capabilities for the show," Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing Director Al Filreis said. "It's one of many student-conceived, student-run projects that Writers House hosts."

While the show will be aimed initially at a Penn viewership, Diamond said she would "love to expand viewership outside the Penn community" and have the show aired on a local television channel.

Diamond, who interned in Los Angeles this summer with famous screenwriters including David Milch, who wrote scripts for Deadwood and NYPD Blue, hopes to send the show over to her contacts from the summer and get the show aired on a local or national level.

"These sorts of things always take time though," Diamond said.

For now, the first episode is scheduled to be aired in December. Writers have already begun scripting the pilot.

The show will take common college anecdotes to create each episode. There will be no constant storyline to the show, nor will there be an entirely repetitive cast. Each episode will have a unique plot and different characters, though some will recur throughout the series.

The basic concept for the show -- what co-producer and College sophomore Jack Solowey called "the controlling reason why the characters on the show are interacting with each other" -- will be centered round a group of newly arrived freshmen who have just met each other.

Possible characters discussed during the group's second meeting this week included everyone from the "typical" pre-med student to the international student who has a perfectly understandable accent, but whom no one ever understands. Ideas for recurring characters included a professor or an employee from 1920 Commons.

The writers brought in personal anecdotes, as well as stories they heard from friends, as potential episode inspirations. One idea was to use 34th Street's "Shoutouts," but showing the other person's take on the event.

"Characters hold the series, and anecdotes hold the individual episodes," Diamond said at the meeting.

The first episode will jump off with the story of a college student who donates sperm -- and nine months later, another episode will reveal what happens when he finds out his baby is out in the world. This idea is subject to change at the moment, though, Diamond said.

A confirmed title for the show has not yet been decided, but there are several options -- including "The Big Fail," "Sexiled," and "That Just Happened."

Diamond, Bayroff and Solowey all expressed an interest in creating something that appeals to the college-aged generation.

Bayroff, who worked for AOL this past summer, saw them develop web series for "tweens" or teens, as well as adults, but nothing for those in between.

"Jack and I had an interest in joining a performance group on campus -- but in the end we wanted to do something on the creative side with an outlet that didn't fit the Mask and Wig mold," Bayroff added.

Diamond has always been interested in the film industry, and has already written a film and a pilot episode for a television show based on her own experiences as a freshman-- which inspired the initiative she is working on now.

Filreis described Diamond as "one of those rare young writers who can 'write funny' -- has a knack for comic writing."

"Kelly's initiative is inspiring, and the overwhelming and immediate response to her call for participants has been thrilling to see," Lowenthal said.

For now, stay tuned -- the first episode will air in just a few weeks.