Writing an original sitcom is an exhilarating but challenging endeavor, one that will test your skills in character creation, plot development, and comedic vision. So let’s start by tackling the most important part: writing the scene where your sexy female lead is caught naked.

It is no accident that this scene is ubiquitous in sitcoms. Television reflects life, and being trapped nude in public is a near-daily occurrence for a sexy female, whether she is waving to a cute boy on the beach just as a wave rips off her bikini top, or undressing at home just as all her friends leap into the room for a surprise party. Your sexy female lead must have similar experiences, or else the character will be dismissed as an unrelatable caricature.

How exactly your female lead will end up unintentionally naked is up to you, but bear in mind that the situation will reveal a great deal about the kind of sexy young woman she is:

[INT. Fancy Party]

FEMALE LEAD: I hope I make a good impression!

[FEMALE LEAD trips on her high heels, ripping off her gown in front of the entire room,]

FEMALE LEAD: Eeek!

MALE PARTY GOER: Good impression made!

See how this scene reveals the female lead as socially ambitious but also a goofball, while the witty quip at the end informs us that she is attractive when naked. This information would be virtually impossible to deliver in any other way.

The specific setting of your scene will be up to you, of course, but be aware that for your pilot to stand out, the scene must be fresh and smart. Time was you could just type out a tired “male roommate catches her in the shower” and head to the bar, but today’s sophisticated audiences demand more social commentary in their television. For example, most sexy young women today are in the workforce, and they find it difficult to balance the demands of professional careers and personal lives. Your scene can highlight this dilemma:

[INT. FEMALE LEAD’s Office]

FEMALE LEAD: No time for lunch, gotta change into my gym clothes for a quick workout!

[FEMALE LEAD takes off her shirt just as BOSS enters, seeing her in a sexy bra.]

FEMALE LEAD: Eeek!

BOSS: I’ve heard of Casual Friday, but this is ridiculous!

Or perhaps your female lead, like many sexy young women today, is delaying marriage, a situation that has dramatic social and economic implications:

[INT. Bridal Store Dressing Room]

FEMALE LEAD: Of course I love Bobby, but is it really time for me to commit—

[The curtain collapses, exposing the undressed FEMALE LEAD to the entire store.]

FEMALE LEAD: Eeek!

MALE CUSTOMER: I’ve heard of strapless gowns, but this is ridiculous!

Right now you may be wondering, “What if my female lead is not a sexy young woman?” Well, now she is. The most common mistake new writers make is “working backwards,” where they first come up with the female lead’s character and history, and then write her scenes to fit that. This is like building a house without a foundation, and you can avoid it by writing the “caught” scene first and developing the character from there. For example, let’s say you envision your female lead as a middle-aged mother of three:

[EXT. Suburban Front Yard]

FEMALE LEAD: Boy, weeding is hard work!

[A dog runs up and rips off FEMALE LEAD’s shirt, exposing her sagging waist and sensible bra.]

FEMALE LEAD: Eeek!

MALE NEIGHBOR: Jesus Christ. Cover up.

Note how flat and contrived the scene feels, and how boring the characters are. But try again, this time with the mother’s college-aged daughter:

FEMALE LEAD: Boy, weeding is hard work!

[A dog runs up and rips off FEMALE LEAD’s shirt, exposing her sexy torso in a sexy bra.]

FEMALE LEAD: Eeek!

MALE NEIGHBOR: I’ve heard of man’s best friend, but this is ridiculous!

See how the characters suddenly sparkle, and feel more “true” to the reader? Thanks to this technique, you can see that your sitcom about the travails of middle-aged motherhood should be refocused as a sitcom about the travails of college girls, and the mother should be relegated to a supporting character, or ideally eliminated altogether.

In fact, you may be surprised what you discover about your female characters once you put them through the furnace of the caught-topless scene. I knew a writer who had his female lead intentionally take her shirt off in public, to distract some bank robbers. I urged him not to follow through with that scene, that America simply wasn’t ready for a willfully nude female lead. Ultimately the dispute destroyed our friendship, but he wrote the scene anyway and went on to win several Emmys. The point is: follow the scene whenever it takes you!

A final tip. In the early 1980s, my writing partner and I were struggling to find a reason for our lead female to be caught without her shirt on. We had written her as a sexy young woman, but try as we might we couldn’t find a situation in which her shirt fell off that felt real to us. We were on the verge of abandoning the pilot altogether, when I asked famous screenwriter Robert Towne for advice. With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Who says she ever needed to be wearing a shirt in the first place?” The lesson: don’t be afraid to think outside the box!