EXCLUSIVE: Comedy veteran Jeff Astrof (Grounded For Life) has been tapped as executive producer/showrunner of TBS’ new comedy series Ground Floor, from Bill Lawrence’s Doozer and Warner Horizon. Additionally, Astrof has signed a two-script development deal with Warner Bros. TV. Ground Floor, which Cougar Town co-creator Lawrence wrote with Greg Malins, is a workplace comedy with a romantic twist that stars Skylar Astin, Briga Heelan and John C. McGinley. Astrof will serve as executive producer alongside Lawrence and Jeff Ingold. The project, which received a 10-episode series order last month, has been looking for a showrunner as Lawrence also landed two new series on the broadcast networks for next season, Undateable on NBC and Surviving Jack on Fox. Astrof, repped by ICM Partners and Michael Gendler, most recently wrote and executive produced the multi-camera version of John Leguizamo’s family comedy pilot King John, which was shot and was in serious contention for a series pickup. Last season, he also sold multi-camera comedy project Fat, Forty And Fired to ABC with a put pilot commitment.
There will be some recasting on NBC’s newly picked up multi-camera comedy series Undateable, from Warner Bros. TV and Bill Lawrence’s Doozer Prods. The bromantic comedy centers on Danny (Chris D’Elia) and Justin (Brent Morin) — two very different guys who are bonded by their common inability to attract women. One of the recastings was expected. It involves Briga Heelan, who stepped in at the last minute to replace originally cast Aly Michalka. Heelan plays the female lead in Lawrence’s TBS comedy Ground Floor, which was picked up to series the same day as Undateable. Her casting as a guest star on Undateable stemmed from her relationship with Lawrence and Warners on Ground Floor. There was an effort to find a way for her to do both series but that proved impossible, so the role on Undateable, Maddie, a waitress in Justin’s (Morin) bar who is endlessly attracted to jerks and bad pickup lines, will now be recast. Also leaving the project is Matthew Wilkas, who played Brett, Justin’s gay and prohibitively picky undateable friend who always finds something wrong with a guy.
2013-14 NBC New Series
About A Boy – Based on the best-selling Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “An Education”) novel, writer Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”) and director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Revolution”) present a different kind of coming-of-age story. Will Freeman (David Walton, “Bent,” “Perfect Couples”) lives a charmed existence as the ultimate man-child. After writing a hit song, he was granted a life of free time, free love and freedom from financial woes. He’s single, unemployed and loving it. So imagine his surprise when Fiona (Minnie Driver, “Good Will Hunting,” “Barney’s Version”), a needy single mom and her oddly charming 11-year-old son, Marcus (Benjamin Stockham, “1600 Penn”), move in next door and disrupt his perfect world. When Marcus begins dropping by his home unannounced, Will’s not so sure about being a kid’s new best friend, until, of course, Will discovers that women find single dads irresistible. That changes everything and a deal is struck: Marcus will pretend to be Will’s son and, in return, Marcus is allowed to chill at Will’s house. Before he realizes it, Will starts to enjoy the visits and even finds himself looking out for the kid. In fact, this newfound friendship may very well teach him a thing or two that he never imagined possible — about himself and caring for others. Writer Jason Katims, director Jon Favreau, Tim Bevan (“Les Misérables,” “About a Boy”), Eric Fellner (“Les Misérables,” “About a Boy”), Liza Chasin (“Les Misérables,” “About …
As movie sequels dominate the box office with more than 30 slated this year alone, including Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2 and Hangover 3, television too is increasingly relying on expanding TV franchises. In a symbolic move, as the last CSI spinoff, CSI: NY, bowed out this season, a record three new spinoff series are joining the broadcast schedule for next season: The Once Upon A Time spinoff Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, The Vampire Diaries offshoot The Originals on the CW, and Chicago Fire‘s Chicago PD on NBC. They will join returning spinoffs NCIS: LA and Law & Order: SVU. Of the four spinoff projects that were in consideration for next season, only one, CBS’ NCIS: Red, didn’t get a series pickup. “Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t,” CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler said last week about the decision. “Protecting (the NCIS franchise) was really important.” She indicated that the network is open to trying the spinoff again. Indeed, I hear there is talk about revisiting NCIS: Red with a new cast.
Once a staple in comedy with All In The Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Cosby Show, Cheers and Family Guy among the slew of hit series to launch spinoffs, offshoots are primarily limited to drama these days. NBC tried …
First off, congratulations to all writers, producers, actors and agents who landed new series this week. I know it wasn’t easy. Here is Deadline’s annual list of those who excelled at the upfronts. I tried to be inclusive, but if I’ve missed anyone who’s had a banner week, let me know. I’ve also compiled a list of pods and independent producers with multiple broadcast series.
Cougar Town co-creator Bill Lawrence and his Doozer banner had three new series unveiled at the upfronts this week: comedies Undateable on NBC, Surviving Jack on Fox and Ground Floor on TBS. Also, TBS recently renewed Cougar Town for a fifth season.
J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot claimed one of the top new drama series last season with NBC’s Revolution and one of the hottest sophomore shows with CBS’ Person Of Interest. The company is keeping the momentum with two new series orders for next season: Almost Human at Fox and Believe at NBC.
Independent producer Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment received two new series orders from the broadcast networks: Back In The Game at ABC and Friends With Better Lives at CBS. Additionally, his freshman ABC comedy The Neighbors was renewed and his ABC pilot Bad Management is in serious contention for a series pickup. Kaplan also received two cable series orders in the past month, for Chasing Life on ABC Family and Instant Mom on NickMom, and also has comedy series Wendell & Vinnie on Nick at Nite and pilot HR at Lifetime.
Writer-producer Julie Plec also landed two new series this week, both at the CW: She wrote/executive produces the planted Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals and executive produces The Tomorrow People. Additionally, she executive produces TVD, giving her three series on the air next season. (Fellow Tomorrow People executive producer Greg Berlanti has two, including returning CW hit Arrow.)
NBC’s 2013-14 Schedule: ‘Revolution’ Moves To Wednesday, ‘Parenthood’ To Thursday, ‘Blacklist’ Gets Post ‘Voice’ Slot
Family comedies and action dramas dominate NBC‘s new series additions for next season. NBC is introducing six series in the fall — comedies Welcome to the Family, Sean Saves the World, and The Michael J. Fox Show; and dramas The Blacklist, Ironside and Dracula; with five more set for midseason– comedies The Family Guide and About A Boy, and dramas Believe, Crisis and Crossbones. (Dracula and Crossbones were carried over from last upfront/off-season). Not scheduled yet are newly picked up dramas Chicago PD and The Night Shift and comedy Undateable as well as last-minute renewal Community. On the returning series side, missing from the announcement are long-time reality staple Celebrity Apprentice and well reviewed freshman drama Hannibal as NBC is yet to make a pickup decision on both. Here is NBC’s fall and midseason schedules with analysis and new series descriptions underneath. As expected, the network is spreading its launches between the fall and spring, tied to its Winter Olympics coverage:
NBC FALL 2013-14 SCHEDULE
(New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET)
8-10 p.m. – “The Voice”
10-11 p.m. – “THE BLACKLIST”
8-9 p.m. – “The Biggest Loser” (New Day and Time)
9-10 p.m. – “The Voice” (New time)
10-11 p.m. – “Chicago Fire” (New Day and Time)
8-9 p.m. – “Revolution” (New Day and Time)
9-10 p.m. – ”Law & Order: SVU”
10-11 p.m. – “IRONSIDE”
8-8:30 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation” (New time)
8:30-9 p.m. – “WELCOME TO THE FAMILY”
9-9:30 p.m. – “SEAN SAVES THE WORLD”
9:30-10 p.m. – “THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW”
10-11 p.m. – “Parenthood” (New Day and Time)
8-9 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
9-10 p.m. – “Grimm”
10-11 p.m. – “DRACULA”
7:00-8:15 p.m. – “Football Night in America”
8:15-11:30 p.m. – “NBC Sunday Night Football”
NBC faces the task of scheduling six new comedies for next season with only two returning half-hour series: Community, which received an eleventh-hour 13-episode renewal, and Parks & Recreation. The network may just have the right man for the job. This is head of scheduling Jeff Bader‘s first turn at bat after moving to NBC last summer. As a long-time scheduling topper at ABC, he was presented with a similar challenge four years ago when the network picked up five new comedy series and returned two. Like Parks & Rec and Community, those two returning comedies, Scrubs and Better Off Ted, were quirky cult shows and not anchors that could launch new series. What Bader and ABC brass did back then was let Scrubs and Ted be, pairing them together for what became both series’ final season. Then they took four new comedies and launched a new two-hour comedy block on Wednesday. It worked – three of the four comedies are still on the air: Modern Family and The Middle on ABC and Cougar Town on TBS. (The fourth, Hank, was quickly cancelled.)
Bader may take a similar approach at NBC. Like at ABC in 2009, the two returning NBC comedies are workplace, while most of the new series are family or family-esque (Michael J. Fox, Welcome To The Family, The Family Guide, Sean Saves The World, About A Boy). Coincidentally, the last new comedy series this year, Undateable, is a multi-camera show about dating, which was also the case at ABC in 2009 with Romantically Challenged, which was scheduled behind Dancing With The Stars.
Clues had been coming in for the past couple of weeks. After last fall failed to produce a single breakout new comedy series, the networks stepped up their comedy development efforts. That resulted in a glut of hot comedy pilots that made network executives giddy. It was clear that, with the nets fawning over their comedy development, they would likely bet heavily on new half-hour series. But they went further — an almost complete redo of last season on the comedy side, as if it never happened. Out of 16 new comedies picked up last May, only one, Fox‘s The Mindy Project, has been renewed. Another one, ABC‘s The Neighbors, is expected to join it after a deal is completed. Compare that to 7 freshman half-hour series who made it to Year 2 last May.
So far, 19 new comedy series have been picked up for next season by the broadcast networks. One to two more will likely be added by Monday, with NBC‘s Craig Robinson and CBS‘ Friends with Better Lives among those talked about. (Fox’s To My Assistant and NBC’s Assistance also have a shot down the road after possible retool.) Not surprisingly, NBC leads the pack with 6 half-hour series already ordered. With The Office leaving, NBC pretty much wiped the slate clean, only bringing back Parks & …
EXCLUSIVE: The week keeps getting better for Bill Lawrence. After getting a series pickup at Fox for Surviving Jack on Wednesday and at NBC for Undateable earlier this morning, he also just received a series order for comedy pilot Ground Floor at TBS, which recently renewed his Cougar Town. Ground Floor, which the Scrubs and Cougar Town creator wrote with former Friends and How I Met Your Mother executive producer Greg Malins, is a workplace comedy with a romantic twist that stars Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect), Briga Heelan (Cougar Town) and John C. McGinley (Scrubs). Ground Floor, which has received a 10-episode order for a 2014 launch, is being produced by Lawrence’s Doozer in association with Warner Horizon TV, with Lawrence and Jeff Ingold serving as executive producers. This marks a second series pickup for Heelan today, who also has a supporting role on Undateable. She is in first position on Ground Floor but, given the fact both series hail from the same studio and producer, it is conceivable that she might do both. TBS’ other comedy pilot, Do It Yourself, remains in contention.
Refresh for latest…
2ND UPDATE 11:05 AM: The Chicago Fire franchise is expanding on NBC as the network has picked up Chicago PD, a spinoff from Chicago Fire, to series. That brings Dick Wolf’s series on NBC next season to 3, including the recently renewed Law & Order: SVU and Chicago Fire. Chicago PD originated as a back-door pilot in the first season finale of Chicago Fire. We’re still waiting for the resolution of the NBC-Sony TV negotiations that involve three pilots in contention, dramas Blacklist and Night Shift and comedy Welcome To The Family, as well as bubble comedy Community.
UPDATE, 9:54 AM: Also getting a pickup is drama Ironside, a reboot of the 1967 series, with Blair Underwood in the title role. Ken Sanzel is in negotiations to serve as showrunner on the project, written/exec produced by Mike Caleo. Universal TV is the studio.
PREVIOUS, 9:35 AM: I’ve learned that NBC has kicked off the second day of new series pickups with an order to the Bill Lawrence-produced comedy Undateable, written by Adam Sztykiel. It stars Chris D’Elia, who became officially available yesterday when NBC cancelled Whitney. This marks the second pickup for Lawrence, who also is producing new Fox comedy series Surviving Jack, and the second new series at NBC for Warner Bros., which also has J.J. Abrams’ Believe.
Here are the network’s descriptions of the new series:
UPDATE: NBC’s ‘Guys With Kids’, ‘Up All Night’, ‘Whitney’ & ’1600 Penn’ Cancelled, ‘Parks & Recreation’ Renewed
2ND UPDATE, 2:45 PM: More cleanup at NBC. Freshman comedy Guys With Kids and sophomore Up All Night also are gone. It comes down to Go On, The New Normal and Community on the comedy side, on which NBC is yet to make a decision… Hannibal looks promising on the drama side, and people are cautiously optimistic about Community among half-hours. The cancellation of both Whitney and Guys With Kids means that NBC won’t have an existing multi-camera companion for the only multi-cam new comedy series it has picked up so far, Sean Saves The World. It may be paired with another multi-cam comedy project that is awaiting word on a pickup, pilot Undateable. As for Up All Night, the cancellation is a formality as the series died when the plan to convert it from a single- to multi-camera format fell apart. The axing gives CBS the free and clear to pickup its untitled Greg Garcia comedy pilot, starring Up All Night‘s Will Arnett, to series.
Related: NBC’s New Series Pickups
UPDATE, 1:58 PM: The axe has begun to fall on NBC’s bubble comedies: Whitney and 1600 Penn. The cancellation of Whitney frees up two comedy pilots to get series orders — NBC’s Undateable, which stars Whitney‘s Chris D’Elia, and CBS’ Friends With Better Lives, which stars Zoe Lister Jones. Whitney has been a lightning rod since its launch, drawing polarizing reactions and getting mostly panned by critics. It started off OK in the ratings last season but gradually fizzled. It returned late last fall and did decent business on Wednesday but its long-term prospects remained dim. Not much to say about freshman 1600 Penn, whose cancellation was a mere formality after a dismal midseason run.
NBC‘s first batch of new series pickups answered some questions, mainly taking care of five slots on NBC’s schedule next season. But they also raised a slew of new questions, mainly related to the pilots that have not been picked up yet. (There may not be more new series orders today BTW.) The biggest hole on NBC’s initial list of five new series — comedies Sean Saves The World, About A Boy and Family Guide and dramas Crisis and Believe — is what is believed to be NBC’s top pilot this season, drama Blacklist. It comes from Sony TV, which has four major pieces in play — Blacklist, hot comedy pilot Welcome To The Family, medical drama pilot Night Shift and bubble comedy Community, which is eying a pickup, possibly for 13 episodes. (technically, Sony’s comedy pilot Brenda Forever is also alive with a possibility for a reshoot.) Maneuvering and give-and-take is expected, and when the dust settles with Sony, NBC will probably know how many slots it has available for the remaining pilots.
One of the drama pilots that could be affected by the number of pickups at Sony is Uni TV’s I Am Victor starring John Stamos. Meanwhile, I hear a series pickup of the Universal TV-produced Ironside starring Blair Underwood is contingent on Ken Sanzel, who is under a deal at Uni TV, coming on board as showrunner. This is …
It was a busy day in pre-upfront broadcast network land, with Fox deciding the fate of all of its pilots (nine picked up to series, six dead) and NBC narrowing down the field by passing on 7 pilots. No major surprises, with none of the hot NBC pilots getting the ax. That includes front-runners on the drama side Blacklist and Crisis (Rand Ravich), which are moving on, along with Ironside, Believe, I Am Victor and After Hours as well as strong comedies About A Boy, Welcome To The Family, Family Guide, Assistance, Sean Hayes, and Undateable, plus dark horses Craig Robinson and John Mulaney and even darker horse Robert Padnick, which is dead. And let’s not forget the potential Chicago Fire spinoff, which I hear turned out well.
At ABC, comedy pilot Spy is dead. So is Keep Calm. Trophy Wife seems to be a go, with reshoots already scheduled. Adam Goldberg and Cullen Bros. continue to be hot, and Rebel Wilson’s growing popularity continues to drive Super Fun Night toward a pickup despite some issues with the pilot. Multi-camera Divorce, one of the last ABC pilots to be delivered, came in surprisingly good, so it is in the mix, though fellow multi-cam pilot King John appears a more suitable companion for Last Man Standing. Bad Management, Middle Age Rage and Mixology …
Fox Picks Up Andy Samberg & Chris Meloni Comedies, ‘Us & Them’ And ‘Enlisted’, Almost Doubles New Series Volume
Having just ordered its new drama series for next season, Fox also has made its comedy pickups, ordering four new shows in addition to the previously ordered Dads, executive produced by Seth MacFarlane. They are the Andy Samberg starrer, now titled Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Surviving Jack starring Chris Meloni; Enlisted starring Geoff Stults; and Us And Them starring Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel. All have received 13-episode pickups. Additionally, the order for the Seth Green-Giovanni Ribisi starrer Dads, originally for 6 episodes, has been upped to 13. The new comedies join newly picked-up dramas Rake, Gang Related, Sleepy Hollow, and Almost Human. That is five new comedy series and four dramas, almost double the number of new scripted series Fox picked up last year (three comedies, two dramas). With American Idol on its last legs, the network clearly is stocking up on the scripted side and expanding its push in live-action comedy. Studio-wise, four of the new shows came from Fox sibling 20th TV, two each from Warner Bros and Sony and one from Universal TV.
Fox’s four new half-hour series choices came out of the five half-hour pilots that had been in contention from the get-go. Over the past week or so, the fifth, To My Future Assistant, began to fade as I hear it came in below exceptions. Meanwhile, Surviving Jack (formerly I Suck At Girls) has been steadily rising, buoyed by what I hear were stellar testing results for Meloni. The former Law & Order: SVU star originally turned down the project, and it took a lot of effort on the part of the producers to get him to do it. It was all worth it as the actor helped secure the pilot a series pickup. Also playing in the pilot’s favor is the fact that Surviving Jack comes from veteran comedy showrunner Bill Lawrence. It is shaping up to be a strong pickup season for Lawrence, whose NBC comedy pilot Undateable also looks very good to get a series order, along with Second Floor on TBS. Fun fact: Fox is reuniting Cougar Town co-creators Lawrence and Kevin Biegel, who is behind another newly picked-up comedy series, Enlisted.
With the pickups, Fox has a total of eight new and returning comedy series on tap for next season. Four of them are guy half-hours — cop show Brooklyn Nine-Nine (formerly Schur/Goor), Army comedy Enlisted, Dads and Surviving Jack — and female/family series New Girl, The Mindy Project, Raising Hope and Us And Them. While Us And Them, about a couple navigating their family and friends, would fit seamlessly into Fox’s existing Tuesday comedy block, it is unclear what the network would do with its guy shows, which could stand on their own as a block or get scheduled around Fox’s male-skewing Sunday animated comedies. Fox’s comedy pilots that didn’t make the cut are Assistant, Two Wrongs and The Gabriels. Overall, Fox didn’t throw curve balls in its series orders this season, largely sticking with pilots that had emerged as frontrunners. Here are descriptions of Fox’s new comedy series along with first-glimpse photos:
Related: PRIMETIME PILOT PANIC: Rumor Mill
It’s pilot screening week, with the networks’ executives huddled in rooms watching the fruits of their development teams’ labor. The networks are still going through the process, with testing results just starting to pour in, but here is the latest pilot buzz I’ve compiled from various sources around town.
NBC had the breakout new drama of last fall, Revolution, and now the network has what could be the strongest drama pilot this season with Blacklist. I hear Blacklist and Crisis (aka untitled Rand Ravich) are considered front-runners on the drama side at NBC, buoyed by very strong testing. In fact Blacklist might be the highest-testing drama pilot at NBC in about a decade, and I also hear the male lead played by James Spader is one of the highest-testing characters ever for producing studio Sony TV. Also in the running are the J.J. Abrams-produced Believe; TV star vehicles Ironside, with Blair Underwood, and I Am Victor, with John Stamos; as well as medical drama Night Shift (aka After Hours). Also possibilities are late deliveries The Sixth Gun and the Chicago Fire spinoff.
EXCLUSIVE: Cougar Town writer-producer Blake McCormick has been elevated to showrunner of the ensemble comedy as it heads into its fifth season and second on TBS. McCormick replaces Ric Swartzlander, who ran Cougar Town last season. Additionally, McCormick has signed a blind script deal with Warner Bros TV through studio-based Doozer, the company of Cougar Town co-creator/executive producer Bill Lawrence. Lawrence exited Cougar Town after Season 3 to segue into his overall deal at Warner Bros TV but ended up being pretty hands-on during Season 4 since he didn’t have a series on the air. That likely won’t be the case next season as he has three pilots in contention for series pickup: Undateable at NBC, I Suck At Girls at Fox and Ground Floor at TBS.
It’s pilot screening time. CBS just started viewing its pilots, with the other networks slated to follow over the next few days. Feedback from the screenings and extensive focus group testing inform the networks’ series pickup decisions and are capable of catapulting a pilot from an also-run to frontrunner status overnight, as it happened with CBS’ Blue Bloods three years ago. Here is what I hear as of this weekend, with information still missing on a few late pilots.
Drama Lucky 7 may live up to its name. The blue-collar ensemble about gas station employees who win the lottery seemed a little off brand for ABC and its glitzy dramas. But I hear the project based on a British format, which hadn’t drawn much attention, came in above expectations, making it a contender in what’s shaping to be a very tight race. It’s tight because two slots have already been penciled in for Marvel‘s S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Once Upon A Time spinoff, whose early footage I hear ABC brass liked. Also boosted by corporate synergy is major contender Big Thunder, based on the Disney ride. Word is ABC may choose one of its two soapy pilots, Westside and Betrayal, with Westside having the edge at the moment. (However, Betrayal‘s David Zabel has two irons in the fire as he is also behind Lucky 7.) The gothic soap Gothica has cooled off a bit while high-concept The Returned, about deceased coming back to life as their old selves, is heating up after another great pilot directing performance by Charles McDougall who, in his typical fashion went over on filming days (by 4 I hear) but delivered a strong pilot. Among the character procedurals, Murder In Manhattan, Doubt, Killer Women and Influence all seem in the mix.
We’re about a week from starting to get more definitive feedback on this year’s pilots when the networks start screening them. That is probably my favorite part of pilot season, when dark horses and underdogs that had stayed largely under the radar suddenly race to the front of the pack. Until then, here are how pilots stack up now based on inherently subjective intel.
Chuck Lorre’s Mom stamped its ticket to the fall schedule with a very well received taping on Friday night, so there goes the assured multi-camera CBS slot for next season, likely Mondays 8:30 PM. The Robin Williams starrer Crazy Ones looks pretty solid on the single-camera side. If CBS decides to go with multiple new multi-camera series, Friends With Better Lives and the untitled Greg Garcia project appear particularly strong (It is still early on the Tad Quill pilot starring Matthew Broderick). On the single-camera side, The McCarthys has buzz, with Ex-Men, Bad Teacher, Super Clyde and Rottenberg/Zuritsky also in the mix.
On the drama side, Beverly Hills Cop is entering the screening stage as a frontrunner. Hostages also looks strong, possibly for midseason given its serialized nature. The in-house CBS contenders include the NCIS: LA spinoff, The Surgeon General and The Ordained, while Intelligence is led by the type of hunky actor, Josh Holloway, CBS brass love. (Alex O’Loughlin anyone?) Wild cards include Hart Hanson’s Backstrom.
EXCLUSIVE: NBC is making a casting change on Undateable, its multicamera comedy pilot from Bill Lawrence and Warner Bros TV. Aly Michalka has departed the project, which is taping Thursday. I hear she will be replaced with Briga Heelan, who last month was cast as the female lead of another Bill Lawrence/Warner Bros TV multi-camera comedy pilot, TBS’ Ground Floor. Because of her relationship with the producers, Heelan has been able to quickly step into Undateable, in which she is being cast as a guest star because of her existing commitment to Ground Floor. (Undateable will actually film before the TBS pilot.)