Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Review: Sitcom Writers Speak

If you're a fan of the classic sitcom, these names are practically emblazoned on your memory banks, preceded by the words "written by." Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Davis. David Lloyd. Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. Saul Turteltaub and Bernie Orenstein. These are just some of the heavy hitters featured in Scott Lewellen's new book Funny You Should Ask: Oral Histories of Classic Sitcom Storytellers (McFarland, $35.00).

This long-overdue volume collects a lifetime of memories from scriptwriters who contributed some of TV comedy's most iconic moments -- Lucy Ricardo's losing battle with the assembly line at a candy factory, Mary Richards' hilariously inappropriate reaction at a clown's funeral, and Maude Findlay's response to an unexpected pregnancy, to name a few. Rather than devoting a chapter to each writer, or pair of writers, as in Jordan R. Young's excellent book on radio comedy, The Laugh Crafters, Lewellen organizes the book by themes. You'll read about battles with temperamental actors, aggravating rewrites, hit shows and crushing failures. In addition to the classic sitcoms already alluded to, coverage in the book includes Laverne & Shirley, Bewitched, 227, Cheers, Frasier, The Andy Griffith Show, Good Times, and too many others to list.

Whether you're a scholar of popular culture, or just a comedy fan who wants to know a little more about the shows that made you laugh, this compulsively readable book belongs on your shelf. It's available from the publisher's website at www.mcfarlandbooks.com, as well as major online booksellers.

P.S. Full disclosure: McFarland is also my publisher. However, I wouldn't know Mr. Lewellen if I fell on him, and am sharing my honest opinion of his book. Didn't even get a free review copy -- I checked it out of the library. OK?


  1. Nice review, David. I'm a huge fan of classic sitcoms and I know I will love this book! I just haven't gotten around to buying it yet. But I've already promised Scott that I'm going to!

    1. Thanks, Becky. I think you'll find some interesting stories you haven't heard before.