Senior John Lee Creates Whitman’s Own Sitcom

"Saturdays" is the brainchild of Whitman student John Lee.

Megan Hearst

“Sitcom Saturdays” could be any sitcom. It’s premise has been explored many times before; a group of friends in college hang out together and get into shenanigans. It could be cliché if not for a two important aspects: all of the actors are current Whitman students and all of them are aware they’re in a sitcom. As a result, “Sitcom Saturdays” becomes a humorous parody of both the sitcom and everyday college life.

“Saturdays” is the brainchild of Film and Media Studies major senior John Lee. John Lee wanted to emulate the style of his favorite sitcoms, stating, “I wanted to try to blend traditional sitcom structure with the free form style of a college environment … I’ve always enjoyed that structure but have never seen anyone try to reproduce it outside of the high production multi-million dollar budget realm.”

The basic premise is that a group of friends, most of whom are members of Whitman’s Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity, attempt to create their own sitcom. The main cast is comprised of Whitman students sophomore James Leroux, sophomore Harrison Carter, sophomore Alden Glass and junior Valentina Lopez-Cortes, all of whom play fictionalized versions of themselves.

As the name suggests, the show is uploaded on Saturdays to youtube on John Lee’s channel, where he also posts vlogs and other projects. So far one full 14-minute episode of the sitcom and a few related clips have been posted. John Lee has been making his daily vlog for a while, and they inspired this project. “I wondered what it would be like if we tried to make a sitcom … also, I realized that I know some pretty entertaining people.”

The show owes a lot of it’s style to modern single-camera, documentary-style sitcoms like “The Office” (as a matter of fact, the protagonists’ desire to make a show like “The Office” is a running gag throughout the first episode). Like “The Office,” “Saturdays” is extremely meta, all the characters are acutely aware that the on camera and are not afraid to acknowledge the absurdity of their situation. In one scene several of the friends try (and fail) to make a fake smoothie “for the sitcom,” in another, one of the characters, sophomore Max Sheffield, expresses his desire to be on the sitcom because “he always envisioned himself as the ‘Jim’ character.” Unlike the characters on your average sitcom, the whole cast of “Saturdays” knows they’re on a sitcom and are willing to play the part and it is this self-aware humor which grants the show it’s comedic spark.

Another aspect which makes the show unique is it’s willingness to acknowledge greater societal issues in a comedic context. One of the running jokes of the show is the lack of diversity, both among the main cast and on Whitman campus in general. One of the main issues the protagonists face is the difficulty of finding a non-white person for their cast. The group’s identities as “white dudes” are put into the spotlight. One of the main characters, James, jokes that the sitcom can find it’s funding from “other white dudes.” “Sitcom Saturdays” is not afraid to probe into the issues surrounding Whitman as well as the more humorous moments.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of “Sitcom Saturdays” is its familiarity. The students and the places they frequent are all recognizable. The struggles and triumphs are all too familiar. “Sitcom Saturdays” is a gleeful, collaborative effort between students, a group project which actually works.

“The show has gone from something that I thought might be just me and a few other friends to something that has over a dozen students involved in some capacity whether actors or production staff … I enjoy being able to work with so many talented and energetic people,” said Lee.

Lee’s show is undeniably and unabashedly Whitman. And that’s what makes it so fun to watch.