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Published: Saturday, 8/31/2002

Now, we're dead serious: ABC needs a `funny' family

Allow me to quote myself: “The way things are going, there's no reason that any of us can't just aim the cameras at ourselves during the day and go home to watch the result [on TV] at night.”

I don't want to say “I told you so,” but consider this e-mail that showed up this week:

Dear Roberta,

My name is Jason Miller and I am a reality television producer out in Hollywood. I recently began work on a new ABC Family/Nash Entertainment show called `My Life is a Sitcom.'

Our hope is to find 10 real families in various cities across the nation that are funny enough to have a sitcom made about their life. Once we have the families, we are planning on sending television crews into their homes and taping them. ...

For the winning family, we are going to have sitcom writers write an episode based on their life, and we are going to have a replica of their kitchen, den, etc., built inside a soundstage. The final episode of the series is going to be an actual sitcom episode designed around their life.

So why did Jason write to me? Because, he says, he comes from a news background (MSNBC), and “I know that the media typically know more about a given community than any other segment of society,” a claim any cop could contest, but I digress.

The point is, Jason figures I must know a bunch of funny families.

“The humor could come from a variety of sources: Maybe the parents have funny jobs, maybe they live on a houseboat or a treehouse, maybe it is a large extended family where everyone has Type A personalities [like] My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or maybe,” he concluded, in a clause that proves he works in TV, “[they are] the upper-class intellectuals that everyone loves to hate.”

I called Jason for details, and learned he'd contacted an average of two newspapers per state, hoping for columnist-matchmakers.

But when I thought of the families I knew who were (Jason's words) “sitcom-worthy,” I realized none of them would consent to being on TV in this way. And when I thought of families I know who would consent, I realized none of them should be on TV.

This is a phenomenon otherwise known as The Jerry Springer Show, and while Jason didn't use that phrase to describe his problem, he knows the score.

“Getting a college professor, or somebody running for state senator,” he conceded, “getting those people would be a problem, because they're worried about their image.”

No, this isn't a show for the library-card set. Instead, Jason seeks “people who are sitting at home watching TV saying, `This sitcom isn't funny! My life is funnier! Someone should do a show about my life!'”

Producers are already collecting self-made audition tapes from eager families. So far, Jason discloses, their favorite is from three mature sisters who live together (a premise I thought was once called The Golden Girls, but what do I know, I'm just a Midwesterner).

Think your family has what it takes to be a coast-to-coast spectacle? Terrific - but don't contact me. I'm not anyone's field producer.

Instead, check out submission guidelines on the show's Web site: http://abcfamily.go.com/sitcom.html.



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