EXCLUSIVE: NBC is renewing its efforts to bring animation back to its comedy lineup. The network has given a presentation order to Mystery Island, an animated comedy voiced and co-written by The Office alum Ed Helms. Helms has teamed on the project with former Office writer-producer Graham Wagner. The duo, who met on the long-running NBC workplace comedy, are co-writing Mystery Island — set on an island where holidaymakers get marooned after their cruise ship malfunctions — for Universal TV where Helms’ newly launched company Pacific Electric Picture Co. has a first-look deal. The two executive produce with Pacific Electric Picture EVP Michael Falbo. This marks the second sale for both Wagner and Pacific Electric Picture. Wagner also is co-writing/exec producing NBC’s live-action The Younger Man, a starring vehicle for Justin Long, who is co-writing with his brother Christian, with Jason Winer exec producing. Pacific Electric Picture also has a live-action NBC comedy project with Aisha Muharrar.
Ed Helms has formed Pacific Electric Picture Co., which will be based at Universal TV, the studio behind The Office, with a first-look deal. Helms has brought in Mosaic’s Mike Falbo as Pacific Electric Picture’s EVP Production & Development. “We are such fans of Ed Helms from his body of work as an actor but we have always been impressed by his instincts and interest in producing,” said Universal Television EVP Bela Bajaria. While the deals for Pacific Electric Picture was still being hammered out, Helms recently sold the first project through the company — a comedy at ABC penned by Mike Arnold (Archer), which follows a brilliant and strong-willed attorney who loses her fiancé and job at the city’s top law firm and takes up with the scrappy, rival firm of misfits across the street. “I’m so thrilled to bring Mike on board the creative gravy train at Pacific Electric Picture Co,” Helms said. “He’s a genuine, wonderful guy with great taste, and a phenomenal work ethic. He also has great hair, which goes a long way in this business.”
Michael Ausiello is editor-in-chief of TVLine.
It’s safe to say The Office’s Ed Helms faced one of the most daunting acting challenges of the past TV season — succeeding Steve Carell as the manager of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch. But while the show itself struggled a bit to find its creative footing in the post-Michael Scott era, the 38-year-old Helms — who has played the adorkably insecure Andy Bernard since Season 3 — never made his task look like work.
AWARDSLINE: You were in the unenviable position having to step in for Steve Carell. Did you feel the weight of that?
ED HELMS: I never felt pressure to fill these shoes; I don’t think that’s possible for anyone to do. For me, it was just an exciting chance to take Andy to different places. The actual hierarchy of the office itself was altered by bringing in [James Spader’s] Robert California [as Andy’s boss] so there were enough differences that I didn’t feel like ‘Here I am needing to fill a void.’ It was more like, ‘Here we go in a different direction — let’s see what happens!’ There were places [the story went] that I didn’t understand as well, but the work experience there is just so wonderful and rare. The Office is about the best work experience you could ever hope for.
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EXCLUSIVE: All is well when it ends well. I’ve learned that after lengthy negotiations, The Office stars Ed Helms, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer have reached an agreement in principal to return to the veteran NBC series next season and are inches away from signing on the dotted line. I hear the fourth original Office cast member whose deal is up, B.J. Novak, has not started discussions, but he has a dual role on the series as an actor and writer/executive producer.
EXCLUSIVE: Will we see a duet performance by the Bernard brothers on The Office this coming season? Crooner Josh Groban has been tapped to play the brother of Ed Helms’ character Andy Bernard on the long-running NBC comedy series. This is the latest member of the Bernard clan to be cast as the network just cast Stephen Collins and Dee Wallace as Andy’s parents. This marks Groban’s first major TV acting stint since his star-making turn on Ally McBeal 10 years ago. (He has done a couple of voice over gigs on animated comedies and he also appeared on Glee but as himself, not playing a character.) It comes on the heels of his first movie role in this summer’s comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love., where he co-starred alongside former Office leading man Steve Carell. Here is a video of Groban’s recent Top 10 spot on David Letterman. He is with WME and Q Prime Management:
FX Nabs Rights To ‘Hangover Part II’
In a move that seems to be about commerce as much as comedy, Warner Bros has started the process on a third installment of The Hangover. Though my sources say there are no deals and that the players involved won’t really get cracking on it for months, it seems likely that Craig Mazin will be writing the three-quel. Reports are surfacing based on an interview he did to promote the film; others involved have hinted at the third pic as well. While Mazin doesn’t have a deal, after Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures just announced that the comedy crossed the $200 million worldwide mark and became the fastest comedy to surpass that number, developing the third film seems inevitable. The picture also blew past the Memorial Day weekend record for an R rated film.
Warner Bros hasn’t announced it’s going for three, and the timing of this film actually took longer than the last one: The Hangover Part II was commissioned before the original picture opened, because test audiences responded so well that Warner Bros knew it had a big hit. Now, there are hurdles to overcome. Warner Bros threatened to scrap The Hangover Part II because of salary disputes with stars Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms. Those guys were paid less than $1 million collectively to star in the first blockbuster, but luckily for the cast, they had no options for a sequel. Their reps smartly dug their heels in, and the trio each got around $5 million against 4% of gross, which ought to mean pretty good backend paydays for The Wolf Pack.
The Hangover star Ed Helms goes on another wild road trip in Cedar Rapids, the Miguel Arteta-directed ensemble comedy that Fox Searchlight releases in February. Here’s a new trailer: