Playing House

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One of my favorite apps that no one knows about is Seeso. It’s from NBC and it’s comedy-centric and it’s amazing. Do yourself a favor and go get it. While you’re there, check out Playing House, a half hour comedy that airs on USA. The series follows two lifelong friends who decide to raise a baby together after the pregnant friend decides to get a divorce.

The series premiered in 2014 and was created by and stars Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Claire, inspired by their real-life friendship. The show has been on for two seasons but I’m going to do the second episode of season one, “Bird Bones,” because I’d rather you just see how awesome this show is and watch it. Also, you’ll be able to skip the pilot, which I really was bored by. If you’ve got an inseparable BFF, I highly recommend you check this one out together. If you’re looking for a good, femme-centric comedy to spec that’s not Broad City, this is an excellent choice because it’s only two seasons in and the seasons are short so they haven’t exhausted too many storylines.

The Breakdown

Maggie, pregnant and recently separated
Emma, Maggie’s best friend, decides to move in after she loses her job and Maggie leaves her husband. They’ve been best friends since high school.
Mark, Emma’s high school boyfriend who is now married to Tina. He is also a cop in their small town.
Tina, Mark’s wife, suffers from bird bones and is a regular target for Maggie and Emma to mock.
Mr. Casey, a townsperson who has a garden gnome stolen.
Joffrey, a teen who steals garden gnomes.

A-Story: Maggie and Emma hang out with Tina, Mark’s wife suffering from a bird bone disease.

B-Story: Mark is on the hunt for missing garden gnomes.

ACT ONE

A: Maggie and Emma are shopping when they see Mark and Tina. They immediately begin mocking Tina as they stalk through the shelves.

A: Mark and Tina catch Maggie and Emma. Emma insists they do brunch and Tina excitedly sets up a time.

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TITLES

A: Mark warns Emma and Maggie not to be mean girls towards his wife. They deny it but comply. (Decision)

A: The brunch is awkward, so Tina offers to give a tour to lighten the mood.

A: They ask where Tina keeps her junk as the place is immaculate and she shows them an overly organized drawer, a visual disappointment for Emma and Maggie.

B: At work, Mark deals with a case of missing gnomes. Teen Joffrey denies his involvement, infuriating Mr. Casey (the victim) which he explains in detail.

A: The ladies compliment Tina and she is thrilled.

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A: Emma and Maggie fall in love with Tina’s master bathroom and ask to use it. They promptly get in the shower while mocking Tina behind her back for her “bird bones” illness, and accidentally turn on the shower, soaking them both. (Reversal)

A: The pair comes downstairs in Mark and Tina’s robes, attempting to sneak out as they apologize for making a mess. Tina insists they stay as she confesses a high school trauma of being mocked and so she has no friends. Emma and Maggie agree to stay but are freaked out since they know they are the bullies Tina was talking about.

COMMERCIAL / ACT TWO

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A: Maggie and Emma work to make Tina feel better over her broken bones. She’s thrilled. (Midpoint)

B: Mark interrogates Joffrey, he finally admits where he’s hidden the gnomes.

A: The girls are having the best time and accidentally call Tina “bird bones” to her face. Tina laughs it off, calling her anonymous bullies geniuses. Emma happily takes the credit for the nickname, throwing Tina into a full blown freak out. (Reversal)

B: Joffrey takes Mr. Casey and Mark to the gnomes… in the middle of a driving range. Mr. Casey runs to save them and is hit by a stray ball. Joffrey rushes to his aid.

B: Mark takes a call from Emma, telling him his wife is having a breakdown as she’s locked herself in a closet, forcing Mark to dive for the gnomes so he can get his work over with and go home to his wife.

A: Maggie breaks down the door to the master bedroom and they find Tina sitting in tears and chocolate wrappers, surrounded by a hoarder’s closet. They are shocked. (Low Point)

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COMMERCIAL

A: Tina reveals her emotional baggage to Emma and Maggie. They admit to being jealous. (Plot Push)

B: Mark closes the case and is given a gnome. While distracted, Joffrey steals a golf cart and Mark breaks a gnome.

A: They clean out the closet but Tina freaks and a pile of Teddy Bears fall on her, breaking her wrist.

COMMERCIAL

A: The girls calmly update Mark. He’s confused, so they bolt while still wearing the bathrobes. (Climax/Resolution)

Conclusion

For all the movies out there that are trying to show a strong female friendship, the best one I’ve seen is actually this show. Pulling off a spec of this show would be incredibly impressive because to a casual viewer they will not necessarily see the nuances in the character. Emma’s actions drive the series, but her friendship with Maggie is what pushes her to find her best self by forcing her into situations she wouldn’t choose, or by grounding her when she’s taken things too far. She’s a tricky character to write because she has control issues, but it’s not in a bossy or OCD way. Her control comes from repressing her emotions from everyone but Maggie, as she was taught by her waspy mother.

Maggie gets to be more comical when she gets a main story. She’s completely aware of who she is and because she knows everything about everyone in town, she’s not afraid to be quirky or make a fool of herself. Everyone in this small town has known her her entire life, what could she do now that would embarrass her? If anything, the flaw in this is that she knows TOO much about her friends and family, crossing lines that others might find inappropriate.

There are always two storylines in this show. One for Emma and Maggie, and a second brief one for a secondary character. In this episode, Mark runs that second storyline. We only see it for a few moments, but it’s just enough to break up the main action.

This show is a great spec choice because it falls into a few categories. On one hand you have the female friendship that would fit other shows like 2 Broke Girls, Mom, Broad City and the upcoming American Housewife, but on the other hand, it fits more family comedies like Modern Family, and upcoming comedies like Speechless and Man With A Plan. Depending on how adult you push the story, you can also swing this as a show that fits other cable comedies on FX or premium cable like HBO and Starz. Its maleability and character nuances make it a strong choice to fit in your comedy spec portfolio.

Happy Writing!

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