Stephen Falk had a series of failures before he created the hit show YOU'RE THE WORST. Hear how he crafted an undeniable romantic comedy pilot and created his leads. Stephen also walks through how he approached creating the series as a whole including: developing ensemble characters, crafting dialogue, creating a hyper-real world, and breaking down both an episode and a season arc. 

Key insights

  • When writing a TV romantic comedy (romcoms), remember the main trope, “will they, or won’t they” which refers to the two leads getting romantically involved.
  • A pilot requires great leads, supporting characters, humor, conflict right away, a payoff and final scenes that keeps the audience asking what happens next.
  • When creating an ensemble cast, the characters should have distinct and different points of view to ensure that there’s always natural conflict. 
  • A venn diagram is a way to “map” out the ways in which the point of view and/or characteristics of two or more characters overlap. Know that too much overlap doesn’t give you enough natural conflict to propel a full season.
  • Characters come “alive” when you continue to give them new ways to operate in scenes, reveal another side, provide details and continue to paint a full picture, a deeper version of who they are.
  • ”Universality” is often emphasized as desirable for TV shows, but that doesn’t mean you’re creating a generic world. Realism can be accomplished through creating a polished version of a very specific, heightened world that feels true and lived in. Specificity leads to relatability.
  • Crafting real-sounding dialogue is not how people actually speak. Well-written dialogue is highly crafted to be pleasing to the ear. 
  • When breaking down a season, you can approach it holistically by breaking it into three “acts”, where the first act has three episodes, the second has four episodes and the third has three episodes.That way the audience can more easily track the arc of each episode within each season act, within the larger season arc. 
  • Breaking down each episode into a scene outline, with story, character moments and dialogue is a good way to approach structure, once you’ve figured out the arc of the season.

Stephen Falk is Creator/Executive Producer/Showrunner/Director of the FXX series YOU'RE THE WORST, which has appeared on numerous Top 10 lists; the first two seasons received nominations for Best Comedy at the Critics’ Choice Awards. In 2016, the series earned a Television Critics Association Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. Season 5 just aired in 2019. more...

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