EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Kevin Abbott, creator/executive producer/showrunner of new ABC comedy series Malibu Country and executive producer of the network’s sophomore comedy Last Man Standing, has gone on indefinite medical leave from the two shows after checking himself into a rehab facility. I hear Abbott, a family man, made the decision to seek help and has the support of Malibu Country star/executive producer Reba McEntire and her husband/manager, Narvel Blackstock, also an executive producer on the show. For the time being, Abbott’s showrunner duties on Malibu Country are being divvied up among the show’s senior writing-producing staff. The series, slated to premiere November 2, is several episodes into production on its 13-episode order, and shooting has not been impacted by Abbott’s departure for now.
Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
It’s still a single-camera comedy world in broadcast network primetime. Only two new four-camera comedies are premiering this fall. But the exec producer of one of them, Kevin Abbott, is determined to keep the fire burning for the form, as he maintained during a TCA panel this afternoon for ABC‘s new Friday night comedy Malibu Country. The show stars Reba (just Reba these days) as a country star who moves to Malibu from Nashville, with Lily Tomlin costarring. When it was suggested that Malibu Country should be given greater cache on the network schedule as an old-fashioned throwback comedy, Abbott deadpanned, “Let’s see how this Modern Family thing plays out, maybe we get Wednesday night at 9.” Actually, Abbott said he was pretty happy being paired on Friday nights at 8:30 with fellow four-camera comedy Last Man Standing, which he called “a really good decision.” But he also emphasized how four-camera has gotten a bad knock. “I think that it’s never about how many cameras you have shooting it, it’s about the people doing it, it’s about the writers, it’s about the actors, it’s about the director,” he said. And if you do a good show people will watch it… I love four-camera because I get to go out there on show night and watch the audience react, I can maybe change a few lines to make it better. And I think that has great value.”
Last Man Standing creator Jack Burditt is leaving the freshman ABC comedy series. Veteran comedy showrunner Kevin Abbott is expected to take over the reins of the show after Thanksgiving if he gets a sign-off from TV Land, where he is under contract. For 20th Century Fox TV, which produces Last Man Standing, Abbott was the top choice to replace Burditt as he successfully stepped in for the departing creator of another 20th TV comedy, Reba, several years ago. Coincidentally, Abbott is now writing a new comedy project starring Reba McEntire, which has a put pilot commitment at ABC. If it goes to series and Last Man Standing is renewed for a second season, Abbott will run both series concurrently. In addition to shepherding the McEntire-starring project Malibu Country, Abbott also has a deal with TV Land, where serves as a consulting producer on Retired At 35. He is now in the process of getting out of his contract at the cable network to join Last Man Standing. Burditt, on whose life Last Man Standing is based, suffered a family tragedy earlier this fall. He took an extended leave of absence, and when he eventually returned on the show, he felt he couldn’t stay on for the long haul.
Reba McEntire is returning to TV with Malibu Country, a multicamera comedy starring and executive produced by the country star/actress. ABC has handed out a put pilot commitment to the project, which reunites McEntire with key auspices of her successful 2001 the WB sitcom Reba. Former Reba showrunner Kevin Abbott will write Malibu Country and will executive produce with former Reba executive producers McEntire, Mindy Schultheis & Michael Hanel. In Malibu Country, after her “good ol boy” rock star husband cheats on her and burns through most of their money, Reba (McEntire) divorces him and moves her family from Nashville to the only asset she has left — a little house in Malibu. There she’ll try to reignite her own singing career and keep herself and her three kids from being corrupted by the materialistic and rarefied Malibu world she now calls home. Also exec producing the ABC Studios sitcom are McEntire’s manager Narvel Blackstock; Dave Stewart, formerly of the Eurythmics; and Laura Ziskin Prods’ Pam Williams. This marks the first sale for Schultheis and Hanel’s Acme Prods, which recently inked a deal with ABC Studios. ABC has been bringing back to the fold veteran TV comedy stars including Tim Allen, who stars in new comedy series Last Man Standing this fall, Kirstie Alley, who is toplining a pilot, and now McEntire.