With titles like The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and, most recently, Bob♥Abishola, TV show creator Chuck Lorre is no stranger to storytelling.
But in developing his first single-camera comedy for streaming, The Kominsky Method, Lorre found himself in new territory.
“Having [every episode] there for viewers is like giving them a book,” Lorre said during Variety Innovate on Dec. 5 in West Hollywood, Calif. “If you read a chapter in the book, you can read the next chapter or put the book down. It changes the way the story unfolds. The story isn’t so episodic…20 minutes doesn’t have to wrap everything up. You’re under pressure to do that on a network.”
Lorre compares most network comedies to a “haiku” or “limerick” due to the low runtime and intermittent commercials, which limits the storytelling in some ways.
“You’re writing knowing you can lose the audience at any minute…they may not come back with commercials,” he said. “Commercials are this obstacle to maintaining a relationship with the audience.”
Streaming, however, invokes continuity. Though the concept of binge-watching worried Lorre at first, he gradually became excited as he wrote alone for the first time since the ‘80s, he said.
“You’re not locked into the box that has to be 21 minutes long. I’ve been trained to estimate how long the script will be. When you’re writing a script in the steaming universe, you just write a script…from the writing perspective, it’s really a joy.”
Filming without a live studio audience offered a new perspective as well. Without laughter and cues from members of an audience, it’s up to Lorre and his team to gauge the quality of humor. Especially for The Kominsky Method, which deals with themes of aging, death and relationships amid its humorous nature.
“I look for moments that might genuinely be funny… but this environment/platform allowed for more intimate moments and pacing changes,” he said. “Pacing in front of audiences is much more rapid.”
At the same time, home viewership sees frequent turnover. On network TV, it’s hard to gauge if an audience has seen last week’s episode. On Netflix, those who have seen episode four have seen the first three episodes, Lorre says.
Despite these adjustments that came with launching The Kominsky Method, Lorre continues to create shows that matters to him, regardless of entertainment’s changing landscape.
“If something feels like it’s worth writing about, then you pursue it,” Lorre said. “How it’s distributed is a secondary thing. It’s a conversation that you have later…you don’t develop for the distribution.”
Mom, Young Sheldon and Bob♥Abishola are currently airing on CBS. In October, CBS announced its newest Lorre pilot, The United States of Al, will be executive produced by Lorre and writers David Goetsch and Maria Ferrari.
READ MORE: Deadline
[cover photo courtesy of Variety]