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.