The sitcom is dead, long live the sitcom. Since reality TV was introduced to the masses, we’ve been hearing that scripted series, especially sitcoms, are in trouble. We debate their future, we lament over the classic ones we loved, and some of us long for the days sitcoms ruled. I have some good news for you, the sitcom isn’t actually dead, it’s just not your father’s sitcom anymore. Just look at the work TV Land is doing and you can see that. With shows like Teachers and Younger, we are seeing a change in the genre but I don’t think we need to get the resuscitation equipment ready just yet.
I have been a huge fan of television my entire life, particularly a good sitcom. I suspect that many of you are like me and enjoy escaping for a half hour of entertainment and laughter. When I heard about Mission: Dadpossible I was intrigued by the premise and hopeful for a new project that would bring a little more scripted laughter into our lives. Since reading up on it I am sure this project will be one to watch.
I have to admit, I am a bit biased because one of my colleagues and friends, Adryenn Ashley has shown her support for Dadpossible through her crowd funding platform, Crowded TV and that is another reason I am confident this project will be something we will want to get behind. With the changing landscape of television, we are going to see many artists headed to alternative sources in order to be sure their projects are seen by the masses. After you read this delightful interview with Associate Producer/Actor Jayme Wojciechowski and Creator/writer/actor Stennar Strom, be sure to head over to Crowded TV to find out more and check out other upcoming projects!
Q: Tell me a little about Mission: Dadpossible. What makes this project so unique?
Jayme Wojciechowski (Associate Producer / Actor): Mission: Dadpossible is a broadcast quality sitcom about Sherwin, a single, “40 year old virgin,” raising his two spirited and precocious young daughters. They decide to create an online dating profile for their dad and send him out on dates. Hilarity ensues as calamity and chaos interfere with every romantic potential.
Stennar Strom (Creator/Writer/Actor): Sherwin is a hero at home, but a lovable loser everywhere else in the world. My favorite roles are dads who have as much fun as the kids, and adults who are completely awkward in social situations. The concept for the show began when I wanted to combine those two halves into one character. I created the sitcom from there.
One important aspect for me was that the women on the dates were not the punch line of the joke. That is the standard sitcom situation. Oh, the date is crazy! On Mission: Dadpossible, Sherwin is the one who messes up. I wanted to be sure that the women had a smart, well-rounded voice behind them. That is why I brought Dakota Shepard on-board as co-writer. I want the women on the show to say things that a woman would say. Not just what a male writer thinks a woman would say.
Another important part of the show is that he’s the father in a mixed race family. But that’s not the joke, or what the show revolves around. There are several successful primetime shows where the main focus is the family culture. They do that well. But on our show, it’s just who they are as a family. It just is. My kids in real life are multi-cultural, but for us it’s just our normal. When I was writing, it was always in the back of my mind that was Sherwin’s family too. There’s very little representation of those families and those kids on TV; so I just thought that would be a nice extra. I didn’t realize at the time how many people would respond so positively to that aspect of the show.
Q: Do you think there is still hope for the traditional three camera sitcom? I’ve noticed a trend of moving toward the single camera, no laugh track, no studio audience style lately.
Jayme: There is a ton of hope. I actually think we will see the reemergence of the three camera sitcom in the next few years. Like anything in Hollywood, trends tend to come in waves. Shows like The Office and Modern Family created this wave of single camera comedy and How I Met Your Mother introduced this hybrid of using three camera without a laugh track. The traditional sitcom dominated comedy television in the 90’s and early 2000’s to a point where audiences wanted another option. Then they were replaced with a more grounded style of single camera that is currently dominating. I feel that same push for something different now and believe a wave of groundbreaking traditional sitcoms are on the horizon.
Jayme: The main plus side is being able to maintain control of what you are creating. Once a creative sells their idea to a network, they often lose much of the creative control. We have some big ideas for the show that go beyond just the story and script, and we chose to produce the project ourselves to ensure we do not have to sacrifice those ideas.
Stennar: In addition, the way television is traditionally produced it can take two to three years to go through the development process for a show. We are able to go from funding to filming in a few months.
Jayme: I wouldn’t say there are any down sides but there are unique challenges to self-producing. There is just more steps for us personally. You need to not only write a script, but fund it and promote it and organize it yourself. You are not simply writing a script and selling it to a company to produce it. You are doing it all yourself. So, I guess the down side is that it is much more work. But that could also be seen as an upside. Depends how you look at it. Just like everything else.
Q: It is important to portray real families on television with all of the different types of families we experience in real life. Do you think we will see more multi-racial, single parents, and same sex parent families?
Jayme: When it comes down to it, I think people simply want to be able to relate to what they watch on television. And as creatives, we want to bring our own experiences and lives and viewpoint into the projects we create. Our team decided very early on that we wanted diversity to be a huge part of Mission: Dadpossible. From a creative standpoint, I have experienced that the more diversity there is in the creative process, the more interesting and human the project becomes. Being able to find that shared humanity when you have a plethora of ideas and experiences allows there to be more heart, and that is really what an audience yearns for. What makes our project super unique is our dedication to diversity in both our casting and our crew.
Hollywood tends to progress quite slowly but as America continues to diversify so will Hollywood. The demand is overwhelming and the networks just need to catch up. Just one more reason we are self-producing. Diversity is too important for us to risk a network being in charge.
Stennar: I think we will see more over time. I certainly hope so. My little daughter loves the movie “Home,” because the story is great and the main character looks like her. So representation does matter.
Q: What are some of the draws and perks for using crowd funding to finance projects?
Jayme: Crowd funding makes self-producing much simpler than it ever was. It really allows fans a way to feel like they are a part of the process. It also allows you to fund and promote at the same exact time.
The drawback of crowd funding is that is it easy to get lost in the shuffle. Crowd funding has become very popular and everyone from established Oscar winning filmmakers to your friend’s grandma are trying to use crowd funding to make their next film. You really need a solid project and plan in order to have a successful campaign.
Jayme: Mission: Dadpossible is definitely made for adults. The idea was to create a sitcom for those parents who only ever watch the same 5 episodes of Elmo’s World with their kids on a daily basis. The humor of our show really just mimics actual family humor. If you have an adult conversation with any parents while their kids are in the room, the content of the conversation rarely changes. What changes, is that all of a sudden the adults start using all these code words and code behaviors that make the adult conversation a million times more amusing.
Stennar: It’s definitely rated PG. But, little kids won’t have any inappropriate words to mimic. When you’re watching TV with a three year old in the room, and you pay attention to the show, it’s amazing how many prime-time sitcoms past and present use words that you don’t want your kids repeating. At the same time, lots of the humor will go over the heads of older kids. I definitely think that high school kids, college kids, and single adults will enjoy the edge though; especially the disastrous dates. If you’ve ever had a bad date, then in all likelihood Sherwin’s are worse. There’s comfort and comedy in that.
Q: Where can people find you on line?
Jayme: Pretty much everywhere. The best place to find us is at our campaign website, www.missiondadpossible.com. We are also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/dadpossible/ and Twitter @dadpossible.
Q: The crowd funding platform you are using, Crowded TV, is unique in that it allows people to back you via social currency as well as with traditional currency (money). What are some advantages of going this route, especially for indie artists and projects?
Jayme: Mission: Dadpossible is bypassing the traditional network process and instead we are asking our fans for support through Crowded TV. Crowded TV is the next level of crowd funding for independent television. What makes it perfect for indie television projects is that it allows fans to show their support in ways beyond just teaming up as financial donors. Fans can also support projects for FREE by helping build a shows “social currency.” Social Currency is the gathering of Mission: Dadpossible’s entire fan base’s demographic data. That data is matched to the ideal advertisers / sponsors and then transformed into production dollars and distribution.
There is a definite stigma that comes with crowd funding that Crowded TV is trying to eliminate. Crowd funding independent entertainment should not be about begging our family and friends to donate money to our projects. No creative wants to have to do that and now we don’t have to. With Crowded TV, the focus is on creating a fan base and having organized data about that fan base. This way we can appeal to appropriate advertisers and investors that are willing to back the project with larger donations.
Q: Where can people find out more about Mission: Dadpossible and how to help with the crowd funding?
Jayme: We happily welcome anyone who would like to join our team as a financial donor, but if you would prefer to back us for FREE that is just as helpful. All you need to do is visit www.missiondadpossible.com and click on the “Back with Facebook” and/or the “Back with Twitter” button. Then just follow the prompt. It is super easy and takes less than 10 seconds to complete.
Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
Stennar: Laughter. Life is hard. Sometimes you just need to laugh.
Even though haters gonna hate, it would be a much better world if people just didn’t.
Jayme: Ditto to both of those!
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? From Who?
Stennar: My father always told me to create things for yourself. If it’s something that strikes a chord, people will join in and help. Mission: Dadpossible is a testament to that.
Jayme: A Zen Master once told me an incredible little saying. Student says “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” Master says, “encourage others.”
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever given? Are you good at following your own advice?
Stennar: You don’t have to accomplish everything in one day. One brick a day can build a house. Just keep putting down that one brick. As a stay at home dad with two small children, it’s the only way that I have built my achievements.
Jayme: I stole this saying from Bjork but I regurgitate it often. Lust for comfort suffocates the soul. I have a rule where I must challenge myself intellectually, physically and emotionally at least once a day. Reading science journals, sword fighting, cross-fit, meditation and watching emotional YouTube videos tends to cover all the bases.
Tommy: Remember to head over to Crowded TV to show your support. There are many ways to do so, including lending your social currency to the project and sharing the page with others!