Pizza and Coffee
North Texas may be only a way station for Noah Sargent. The 21-year-old University of North Texas student is from San Antonio, and after his upcoming graduation he’s anticipating a summer course in Spain and internships on the West Coast. Yet he’d like to make his mark while he’s here, and his best bet seems to be Peppuccino’s, a traditional scripted TV sitcom that’s being made entirely within the confines of UNT.
Growing up in San Antonio and assorted towns in South Texas, Sargent made many funny videos, but he only became serious about it in high school. “I just got a good feeling when I visited UNT,” he said about scouting colleges to attend. “When I visited the TV facilities, I felt right at home.”
He has made a few short films available through his website, and his ultimate ambition is to make a movie about his mother, who struggled with alcoholism. She died before he got to college. “She always wanted me to go to school,” he recalled.
Peppuccino’s, however, is in an entirely different vein. The idea came about when Sargent helped design multimedia elements in a recent theatrical production of Godspell. “I wondered why we weren’t doing more interdepartmental stuff,” he said. “I wrote down a bunch of ideas and wound up throwing most of them out, but one of them was for a sitcom.”
Sargent is listed as the show’s “founder,” while three writers — Lindsay Duke, Joseph Kotisso, and Caitlin Rodden — are credited as the show’s creators. Sargent came up with the show’s concept, and the writers (who were found through a submission process) invented the plot and characters, as well as the setting of a combination pizza parlor/coffeehouse where the characters work and hang out. The show was heavily funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised $2,400.
This isn’t the first time a campus TV station has aired a sitcom — Chicago’s Columbia College turned out one called Debbie’s Got Class that used a laugh track and mimicked the look of 1950s sitcoms. Peppuccino’s, in contrast, is being taped before a live studio audience. “This is not just another college show,” Sargent said. “Instead of 12 to 16 people who do whatever is needed, we’ve got 35 people whose unique skills are suited to their jobs. It’s a huge commitment. Some of them are working 100 hours a week on this show.”
That time commitment has cost the show some talent, yet Sargent reports that things are ready to go for taping of the program’s final episodes, set for the weekend of April 20-22. Sargent is looking to put the episodes online in the fall, but he’ll also be shopping the program around to networks and contests (such as the New York Television Festival) to see if there’s any commercial interest. What place in the world this groundbreaking product will find remains to be seen.
“In a way, the show is like the restaurant,” Sargent said. “It’s a hybrid. It’s new.”