I’ve been watching Cheers on Netflix for a little while now. When I was a kid, the show didn’t interest me because it all took place in one location and it just seemed like a bunch of people talking to each other. Now, I think the show is phenomenal because it all takes place in one location and it is just a bunch of people talking to each other. Here are some reasons I like Cheers and how sitcoms connect to what I do every day as a custom e-learning writer.
HOOK THEM FROM THE START
Great sitcoms always have an engaging opening song. Cheers opened with a great song over old-timey pictures of people in bars. (“You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”) The Simpsons starts with a Danny Elfman tune as the viewer buzzes through Springfield.
When you start an e-learning course, a hook animation as an introduction can generate excitement and give the learner a sense of what’s ahead. Think of it as your course’s opening credits.
COMPACT, TIGHT WRITING
In most TV sitcoms, there are 22 minutes to introduce, tell, and wrap up a story. The writing has to be tight and no words can be wasted. In Cheers, most episodes follow a similar structure: There is a main ‘A’ storyline, a ‘B’ storyline, and a ‘C’ ongoing joke. Every word fits inside this structure.
This economy of words is also the case with e-learning. Most learners don’t have all day to click through a course. A lot of the time, you get 20 to 30 minutes to get your message across. Every word must serve the larger message in the most effective and engaging way possible.
SAME CHARACTERS, DIFFERENT OUTCOMES
Every episode of a sitcom uses some combination of characters familiar to the audience. Maybe some episodes focus more heavily on Sam and Diane, while others are about Coach and Norm. The audience sees these characters all the time and knows their core beliefs and how they function on a day-to-day basis. Writers use these character functions in different combinations, with different situations, to create an engaging story.
When you are building a course, you want to use elements and screen types that learners are familiar with in different combinations to get your message across effectively. So the building blocks may be the same, but courses can be wildly different depending on the outcome the client desires.
Writers, actors, producers, set designers, caterers, etc. Many, many people are necessary in the creation of one television show.