Anthony D’Alessandro is an AwardsLine contributor.
In the 1970s, Columbia Pictures then-president Peter Guber was given a script for a film starring Woody Allen. “I called my boss David Begelman and said, ‘There has to be a mistake,’ ” Guber recalls. “There’s not a laugh in it!” The film was The Front (1977), and it was a stark departure from Allen’s comedy writing and standup days, preceding Annie Hall by a year. In the film, directed by Martin Ritt, Allen stars as a New York deli clerk who ghost writes for blacklisted scribes. The poster featured Allen throwing up his hands in a “What me, worry?” pose with the tag line, “America’s Most Unlikely Hero.”
“After seven minutes, the preview audience wasn’t laughing anymore,” Guber recalls. “The film didn’t associate with Woody Allen’s brand of comedy. The audience had an expectation going into the theater.” Critics were divided over The Front, and the film’s box office didn’t hit the $20 million to $30 million take of Allen’s other films, considered big by ’70s standards.
Fast-forward several years, when Bill Murray followed up his role in the 1984 blockbuster Ghostbusters with a dramatic turn in The Razor’s Edge, based on W. Somerset Maugham’s novel about a World War I vet who goes off the grid to India. The film was slaughtered at the box office and also by critics, such as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert, who blamed Murray for the movie’s dullness. Read More »
BREAKING: Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Mexican director whose films are about as serious and sad as anything I’ve seen from a world-class filmmaker, is about to lighten the tone and make us laugh with his next feature. Gonzalez Inarritu will next direct Birdman, a comedy he co-wrote with Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo.
Gonzalez Inarritu followed the tragedy-filled Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel by making possibly the most heartbreaking film I’ve ever seen in Biutiful, his last film. Here, he’ll tell the story of an actor in crisis, who once played an iconic superhero, as he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play. Birdman will be captured in a single location over the span of three days. Production is currently slated to begin in March 2013. Iñárritu will produce with Robert Graf and his former agent-turned-producer John Lesher. CAA reps Iñárritu and will rep the film. Read More »
Emmy Pedigree: It’s Burrell’s third straight nomination here for Family, and he’s bidding for his second win in a row. He, like the rest of the cast, also took home a SAG Award the past two years as well as a TCA honor in 2011.
What We Say: Burrell could be poised to pull a repeat, but with the Family vote split four ways, it’s far more likely that voters will anoint new blood.
JESSE TYLER FERGUSON (Modern Family, ABC)
Emmy Pedigree: Ferguson has kept pace with his costars in landing his third Emmy nod for the show. However, unlike Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet, he’s yet to win.
What We Say: The guy is really, really good. But he’s surrounded on this show—and in this category—by really, really good. It’s Ferguson’s turn. Time for him to make room for a golden gal on the shelf.
At a party tossed by Family Guy creator/runner Seth MacFarlane this week, MacFarlane was joined onstage by Bill Maher to belt out the Frank Sinatra tune Star. It turns out both guys have decent chops, even after a cocktail or two. Of course, that shouldn’t be a huge surprise in the case of MacFarlane, who last month released his own album of big band standards and showtunes. Watch:
NBC has scheduled midseason comedy The Paul Reiser Show in the Thursday 8:30 PM slot. The single-camera comedy starring Reiser will premiere Thursday, April 14. It will replace another NBC midseason comedy series, Perfect Couples, which will have aired 11 episodes of its 13-episode order. Where (and if) the remaining two episodes of the ensemble comedy will run is TBD. This is the first of several midseason series ordered but not scheduled by NBC’s previous regime to get slotted under the network’s new chief Bob Greenblatt. Still waiting to get a premiere date are anthology comedy Love Bites and comedy Friends with Benefits. Space for comedies on NBC’s fall schedule will be tight as the network recently renewed all 4 of its returning comedies: Community, The Office, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation.
The Paul Reiser Show hails from Reiser and Jonathan Shapiro. It stars Reiser as himself enjoying the quiet life at home with his wife Claire (Amy Landecker). Thrown together by circumstance, Reiser and some friends including Jonathan (Ben Shenkman), Habib (Omid Djalili), Fernando (Duane Martin) and Brad (Andrew Daly), form an unlikely comradeship — and a pretty lame basketball team. The Paul Reiser Show is produced by Warner Bros TV and Reiser’s Nuance Prods. Reiser and Shapiro co-wrote the pilot as well as each of the episodes that follow, and both serve as executive producers. Bryan Gordon directed the pilot.
EXCLUSIVE: In what may be the last bidding war this development season, I hear CBS has landed Two Broke Girls, a multi-camera comedy co-written by former Sex and the City showrunner Michael Patrick King and comedian Whitney Cummings. The project, which the two wrote on spec at Warner Bros. TV where King is under a rich overall deal, was taken out this week and, after heated bidding, landed at CBS with a pilot production commitment. Like Sex and the City, Two Broke Girls is set in New York and features female protagonists. But the similarities end there. As the title suggests, the CBS/Warner Bros. TV project centers on two 22-year-old girls who tackle life in New York: two broke girls, one expensive city. (It is safe to assume that the two won’t be wearing Manolo Blahniks.) King is executive producing the pilot, while Cummings is co-executive producing. This is the second spec sale for King, who is returning to TV this development season after taking a break to write and direct the two Sex and the City movies. A drama he wrote about a 50-something Beverly Hills hairdresser landed at NBC with a pilot commitment last month. 28-year-old Cummings also has a second project set up at NBC. She is writing and is attached to star in a comedy about a woman who’s afraid of marriage. Cummings, a … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: It used to be that Hollywood was signing stand-up comedians to TV deals all the time. Now it’s a rare occasion. But Jo Koy has inked a talent deal with Warner Bros TV to topline a comedy project based on his stand-up, which will be developed through Tom Werner’s WBTV-based Good Humor TV. While not a household name, CAA-repped Koy, who is a regular on E!’s Chelsea Lately, has built a successful touring career, selling out clubs around the country. In his comedy, the Las Vegas native (real name Joseph Herbert) focuses on his life as a Filipino American, his family, which includes his mom, siblings and his young son, as well relationships and stereotypes. Building a sitcom around stand-up comedians and their act was once a staple of comedy development that spawned hits like The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Home Improvement, Roseanne, Mad About You and Everybody Loves Raymond. But lately, development deals with standups have become rare as the broadcast networks have started favoring single-camera comedies and gravitating towards more conceptual shows.
EXCLUSIVE: Mos Def has joined HBO’s upcoming Mike White/Laura Dern comedy series Enlightened as a regular. The single-camera comedy stars Dern as a self-destructive woman who has a spiritual awakening and decides to live an enlightened life, which creates havoc at home and work. Mos Def will play her new boss when she returns to work. This marks Mos Def’s first full-time series gig. He recurred on Comedy Central’s Chapelle’s Show and recently did a memorable guest stint on Fox’s House. At HBO, he starred in the 2004 movie Something the Lord Made, which earned him an Emmy nomination.
Disney has assembled the cast of Prom, its high-school comedy feature revolving around a group of teens and the emotional ups and downs they go through prepping for the big dance. The studio stuck to its original plan to cast mostly unknown young actors as the leads in the movie, which is eyed as a potential launching pad for a franchise in the mold of High School Musical and whose tone is said to be similar to John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. Cast as the leads in Prom are: Thomas McDonell, Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights), Danielle Campbell, Nolan Sotillo, Yin Chang (Gossip Girl), Jared Kusnitz (Surviving Suburbia), Nicholas Braun (10 Things I Hate About You), Ben Esler (The Pacific), Kylie Bunbury and DeVaughn Nixon. Joe Nussbaum is directing from a script by Katie Wech. Ted Griffin and Justin Springer are producing.
EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Lillard and Gillian Vigman will play the two leads in the CMT comedy pilot The Hard Life. The project,written and executive produced by Bill Diamond (Murphy Brown), is a single-camera half-hour that explores the contrast of modern parenting vs. old school parenting. It centers on parents Read More »
Mandate Pictures is banking on the notion that HBO’s East Bound and Down star Danny McBride will make a convincing bully. Mandate has made a deal for Bullies, a comedy based on an original idea by McBride about two brothers who finally get a comeuppance after bullying people their whole lives. Yes Man scribes Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul will write the script. McBride will produce with his Rough House Pictures partners David Gordon Green, Jody Hill and Matt Reilly. Mandate’s Nathan Kahane will be executive producer. McBride most recently wrapped the Universal comedy Your Highness.
EXCLUSIVE: Fred Goss (Sons & Daughters) is closing a deal to play the lead in the CMT comedy pilot 30 Percent, with Sarah Rafferty also cast in the project. Additionally, veteran Debra Mooney (Everwood) rounds out the core cast of another CMT comedy pilot, the untitled David Litt project. 30 Percent, written and executive produced by Peter Knight, is about a family that must downsize when the father’s (Goss) pay as a commercial real estate executive is cut by 30%. Rafferty will play his doting wife. Themulti-camera David Litt comedy is a multi-generational show about a man (Tom Arnold) seeking the empty nest and his family, including wife (Liza Snyder) and parents (Ed Asner, Mooney), who is unwilling to let him have it. The David Litt project and 30 Percent are 2 of 4 comedy pilots ordered by CMT, along with Working Class, staring Melissa Peterman, and The Hard Life.
EXCLUSIVE (Updated with a mini Q&A with Mara Altman): HBO is developing a comedy about a young woman’s quest to achieve the female orgasm. No, this is not a Sex and the City spinoff about Samantha’s twenties. The pay cable network has optioned the non-fiction book Thanks ForComing: A Young Woman’s Quest For An Orgasm, with Grumpy Old Men scribe Mark Steven Johnson on board to adapt and Pretty In Pink helmer Howard Deutch attached to direct.
Thanks For Coming, which was published by HarperCollins last year, was written by Mara Altman, who will serve as a consultant on the HBO project, also tentatively titled Thanks For Coming.
In the book, Altman, a former staff writer for The Village Voice, chronicles her experiences of a twenty-six-year-old, attractive, successful, single woman in New York who’d never had an orgasm and sets out on a journey to achieve it. Johnson recently directed the romantic comedy When In Rome.
Since finishing Thanks For Coming, Altman has been working on another, a novel, while also writing a small book about cacti and succulents as well as freelancing for magazines like New York and Inside Jersey. She answered a few questions about her experiences, her book and her HBO project.
How do you feel about the possibility of your book becoming an HBO series?
Altman: I’m very excited about the prospect of HBO adapting my book for a comedy … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The London-based production company is turning Shari Low’s bestselling chick-lit novel A Brand New Me into a romantic comedy. Mimi Hare and Clare Naylor, screenwriters of The Accidental Husband, are adapting the screenplay. Hare and Naylor have written a couple of chick-Lit novels themselves, The Second Assistant and The First Assistant. The deal is something of a family affair for Curtis Brown: Low is represented by Sheila Cowley, while Tally Garner negotiated Hare and Naylor’s deal with Universal Pictures.
EXCLUSIVE: CMT is getting another familiar name from its roster of unscripted series hosts to headline one of its first four scripted pilot presentations. Tom Arnold has been tapped to star in the untitled David Litt multi-camera comedy, a multi-generational show about a man (Arnold) seeking the empty nest and his family who is unwilling to let him have it. Arnold’s character Joe Herman, the owner of a hardware store, is described as “salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, good-hearted, eager-to-please, optimistic, but sometimes overwhelmed by the chaos around him.” Litt wrote the script and is executive producing with Gene Stein and Nina Wass. The project also is referred to as Regular Joe, which also was the name of a short-lived 2003 ABC series by Litt, which he executive produced with Stein and Wass. Regular Joe had a very similar set-up to the CMT project, with the central character, hardware store owner Joe Binder, played by Daniel Stern.
As part of its push in the scripted area, CMT ordered four comedy pilot presentations in April. One of them, Working Class, stars actress/comedian Melissa Peterman, host of CMT’s flagship series, The Singing Bee. Comedy veteran Arnold recently hosted CMT’s unscripted series My Big Redneck Wedding. He also recently did an arc on the dark FX drama Sons Of Anarchy.
EXCLUSIVE: FX is teaming with Matthew McConaughey and his production company J.K. Livin for a comedy project.
Tentatively titled Kick Ass Militia, the single-camera comedy is based on source material by JR Reed, an old friend of McConaughey’s. It centers on two brothers whose divergent views are always pitting them against each other on their Malibu compound– one a survivalist and one a free-loving cult leader. Marc Hyman is writing the script and is executive producing Militia, now in development, with McConaughey.
J.K. Livin has been ramping up its TV efforts in the past year, building a slate of edgy, male-centered comedy projects. The company has animated comedy Rooster Tales, based on McConaughey’s brother’s life, in development at Fox and Jonah and the Whale, about a young man growing up in the shadow of a famous and disapproving father, in the works at Starz.
Meanwhile, FX also has been rapidly expanding its comedy series slate with recent entries The League, Archer and Louie… Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: I hear Sarah Chalke is in talks to co-star in the CBS comedy Mad Love, which is close to a 13-episode midseason order at the network. She would replace Minka Kelly who was originally cast in the role. The project would reunite the Scrubs alumna with former Scrubs writer-producer Matt Tarses who created Mad Love and is executive producing it with Jamie Tarses.
Mad Love is an ensemble comedy about four friends in New York – Henry (Jason Biggs), Kate (Chalke), Larry (Tyler Labine) and Connie – who are looking for love. Connie was played in the pilot by Lizzy Caplan as a guest star and that role is now being recast as Caplan couldn’t commit to the series.
This is the second round of recastings on Mad Love, which replaced Dan Fogler with Labine and Ashley Austin Morris with Caplan just before the pilot was shot. Chalke’s character Kate is described as a pretty, clean-scrubbed Midwestern who is a sweet but strong-willed romantic. She falls in love with Henry at the top of the Empire State Building and often tackles her cousin and best friend, Connie, to the ground in order to get her way.
Mad Love, produced by Sony TV and CBS Studios, is expected to be joined by the 20th TV-produced midseason drama Chaos, whose pickup deal at CBS is said to be nearing completion. Shalke was in demand and did two pilots this year, ABC’s Freshmen and CBS’ Team Spitz, which also … Read More »
Former Friends writer-producer Ira Ungerleider has closed a deal to serve as showrunner on another ensemble relationship NBC comedy that has “friends” in the title, midseason series Friends With Benefits. On the single-camera comedy, from 20th TV and Imagine TV, Ungerleider will serve as executive producer alongside the pilot’s director David Dobkin, writers Scott Neustadter and Mike Weber, as well as Brian Grazer, David Nevins and Jeff Kleeman. Additionally, Ungerleider’s deal with 20th TV is said to include a significant blind script commitment. Ungerleider, who created the NBC series Jesse, most recently served as executive producer/showrunner on CBS’ Gary Unmarried. He is repped by UTA and attorney Don Wallerstein.
It’s been a strong upfront for Friends alumni. Former executive producers Shana Goldberg-Meehan and Scott Silveri both landed new series. Goldberg-Meehan’s ABC comedy Better Together in particular is becoming a big Friends reunion. Goldberg-Meehan is executive producing/co-showrunning it with ex-Friends exec producer Greg Malins, while another former Friends exec producer, Adam Chase, serves as a co-executive producer. Meanwhile, Silveri co-created and is executive producing NBC’s Perfect Couples with Jon Pollack who didn’t work on Friends but served as an exec producer on its spinoff Joey. Additionally, Friends co-star Matthew Perry is back with a new comedy series, Mr. Sunshine, on ABC. And Friends co-creator David Crane is behind the new Showtime series Episodes, which stars Matt LeBlanc.