Former Friends executive producers Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen have come on board Rebel Wilson’s CBS comedy pilot Super Fun Night as executive producers/showrunners. The deal is for the pilot, with an option for them to stay on if the project is picked up to series. Written by and starring Wilson, Super Fun Night, from Warner Bros TV and Conan O’Brien’s Conaco, follows three nerdy female friends — Kimmie (Wilson), Helen-Alice (Jenny Slate) and Marika — on their “funcomfortable” quest to have super fun every Friday night. Reich and Cohen have been based at Warner Bros., most recently creating and executive producing the studio’s ABC comedy series Work It.
Here is the second-annual honor roll of the best and brightest at the broadcast upfront. First off, to all who got their pilots picked up to series — congratulations. You’re already winners. This is a list of those who took their upfront success to an extra level:
Whitney Cummings: The undisputed queen of Upfront 2011. She is behind two new comedy series that are among the highest-profile new half-hour entries next fall. She created, stars in and executive produces her eponymous comedy for NBC, which was assigned the network’s best comedy slot, following The Office. She also co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which broke records as CBS’ best-testing pilot (comedy or drama) ever. Both were the first comedy pilots to get a series order at their networks. Cummings, who also has a talk show in contention at E!, will serve as an executive producer on 2 Broke Girls but will be full-time on Whitney, which was in first position. I hope that doesn’t impact 2 Broke Girls, which King is expected to run/co-run, because the pilot indeed looks great. Honorable mention in the category of creators with multiple projects for Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. One of their two ABC pilots, Work It, was picked up to series, while the other, Smothered, is very much in contention for midseason.
What a comeback for J.J. Abrams! After his high-profile NBC drama Undercovers went bust last fall, some questioned whether the networks will continue to bet on him. But bet they did this upfront, with both pilots he produced, CBS’ Person of Interest and Fox’s Alcatraz, going to series. Person of Interest instantly became one of the most anticipated new fall series when CBS made it its new Thursday 9 PM anchor. The network also said it was its best-testing drama pilot ever. And over at Fox, Alcatraz prevailed over several high-profile pilots to land one of only two drama series spots. Then, as icing on the cake, Abrams’ modestly rated but well-liked Fox sci-fi series Fringe got a renewal for next season, bringing the producer’s series for next season to three.
The pilot pickup season is just starting in earnest, but we already have an unusually large number of creators with multiple pilot orders. Peter Tolan, Whitney Cummings, Michael Patrick King and the duo of Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen have each received two pickups. Tolan wrote and is executive producing Fox’s comedy The Council of Dads and NBC’s Brave New World, Cummings wrote, executive produces and stars in an untitled comedy pilot for NBC about a young couple and co-wrote/executive produces the CBS comedy pilot Two Broke Girls with King. King also has NBC drama pilot A Mann’s World, on which he is the writer-executive producer. Reich and Cohen wrote and are executive producing two ABC comedy pilots, Work It and Smothered. Besides evoking an automatic reaction of “Come on, spread the wealth” from other writers who have projects in contention, the embarrassment of riches for the in-demand creators with multiple pilots comes with inevitable complications, putting pressure on the writer-producers in the pilot phase and facing them and the networks with some difficult choices come May.
UPDATE 1:40 PM: After just picking up a period soap, Pan Am, ABC has also greenlighted a period PI show. In its second drama pilot order today and fourth overall, the network has picked up Poe, a crime procedural following Edgar Allan Poe, the world’s very first detective, as he uses unconventional methods to investigate dark mysteries in 1840s Boston. Chris Hollier (Kyle XY) penned the project for Warner Bros. TV and Lin Pictures. He will be supervising producer, with Dan Lin executive producing. It has been a very intriguing pilot pickup day at ABC with two pretty bold drama choices — unconventional takes on familiar franchises: soap, detective show — and two more conventional multicamera comedy picks.
UPDATE 12:40PM As expected, it is a busy pickup day at ABC. The network just gave the green light to period drama pilot Pan Am, from Sony Pictures TV and ER alum Jack Orman. Orman penned the script and Thomas Schlamme is on board to direct the pilot, described as a sexy soap set against the Jet-Age about pilots and flight attendants working at the iconic Pan Am airline in the 1960s. Executive producing are Orman, Schlamme and producer Nancy Hult Ganis, a former Pan Am flight attendant and the driving force behind the project. Ganis’ husband, fellow producer Sid Ganis, will co-executive produce.
ABC also just picked up a second comedy pilot for …
The ABC Studios/Tagline-produced Man Up stems from writer-actor Moynihan’s two-script deal with the studio. In addition to writing and executive producing, Moynihan is set to co-star in the project, a look at what it takes to survive as a modern man, as told through the eyes of three best friends and the women in their lives. Also executive producing are Tagline’s Ron West and Kelly Kulchak. Moynihan is with Rothman Brecher and Thruline. (This is not to be confused with Jack Burditt’s comedy script Man Up, also at ABC, which has Tim Allen circling.)
The Warner Bros. TV-produced Smothered is based on Reich and Cohen’s real-life experiences and centers on a young couple who find themselves smothered by their two very different sets of parents whose only thing in common is that their children are married to each other. Reich and Cohen are with WME.