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Servitude: A formula guaranteed to produce a dismal result

A scene from "Servitude," the first film to be developed and workshopped through the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab, a CFC Film Program in collaboration with Just For Laughs.

1 out of 4 stars


How to Turn a Feature Flick into a Bad Sitcom in 10 Easy Steps

1. This first rule is inviolable: Instruct your cast never to speak when they can shout, and never to gesture when they can mug. In short, conduct everything at the level of a perpetual shriek.

2. Recycle that old workplace family scenario, always a TV favourite. Like a restaurant staff, but not just any restaurant. Maybe one of those garish, Old West-themed steakhouse places which opens up all kinds of funny dress options – a giant white Stetson for the manager, brown vests with sheriff badges for the servers. Now your shrieking/mugging cast has costumes to match.

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3. Make sure all your characters are caricatures. When imagination fails, settle for stereotypes. Like the young protagonist Josh, who's a waiter/aspiring writer. Introduce his ultra-aggressive girlfriend who wants him to be a law student/aspiring moneybags. Take care to ensure that she shouts louder. Cast Joe Dinicol in the lead role, and don't worry that he errs on the quiet side. Chalk it up to an acute case of embarrassment.

4. Maintain that same high level of trite caricature among the supporting players. People the restaurant staff with the hunky stupid guy, the mincing homosexual and the aging female harpy. Have the hunky stupid guy not get the joke on his proudly personalized licence plates: STD MUFN. Have the mincing homosexual tack up a poster for his favourite musical: Gayed Expectations. Have the female harpy swear a lot. Loudly.

5. For added hilarity, import a German. Say he's the restaurant's new owner. Call him Franz. Give him a thick accent. Encourage your thespian to channel Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes, that long-ago sitcom. Then get him to goosestep into the kitchen and, accent all rehearsed, bark out, "I am verrrry interested in your ovens." Wish you had a laugh-track to sweeten that gem of a joke.

6. To your youthful cast add cameos from veterans known to be good sports and big shouters. Jayne Eastwood is ever reliable on both counts. Recruit Margot Kidder to play an aged cougar with a face so Botoxed she might be suffering from lockjaw. That makes it hard for her to shout, but Margot will manage – she's a trouper. Oh, and stick Dave Foley under that giant white Stetson. Now that he's older and greyer and larger, it's a perfect fit.

7. Plot? Whatever, it hardly matters.

8. Shtick? Plenty, as long as it's physical. Restaurants have floors. Floors get slippery. People fall down go boom. Restaurants have food. Food gets thrown. Better yet, food gets barfed up. Especially on a once-funny comedian in a giant white Stetson.

9. Trust that your feature flick/aspiring bad sitcom will soon find its rightful home on some TV specialty channel. If you're Canadian, hope that Cancon quotas will expedite that happy homecoming.

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10. Shout for joy, shriek with glee, and consider yourself a commercial filmmaker.


  • Directed by Warren P. Sonoda
  • Written by Michael Sparaga
  • Starring Joe Dinicol and other notables
  • Classification: 14A
  • 1 star

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About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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