ABC‘s freshman comedy Malibu Country is facing 50-50 odds to return next season. But if the Reba McEntire-starring sitcom comes back for a second season, it will be with a different showrunner. Nastaran Dibai, who stepped in to run the show in November, following creator/executive producer Kevin Abbot’s stint in rehab, will not return next season. Dibai, who helped stabilize the show after the shakeup, has opted to depart. I hear she wanted to make significant changes to the comedy for Season 2, something ABC brass weren’t willing to commit too. There is speculation that Abbott, who has been very close with McEntire dating back to her WB sitcom Reba, which he ran, may rejoin the series if it makes it to a second season. While its Friday companion, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing is all but assured a renewal, Malibu Country is heavily on the bubble, with its odds at about 50-50. A lot will depend on ABC’s two multi-camera pilots, with one, John Leguizamo’s King John, already garnering momentum as potential new companion for Last Man Standing. (ABC’s other multi-cam pilot, Divorce, is yet to be completed because of late recasting).
ABC has picked up five additional episodes each of Friday comedies Last Man Standing and Malibu Country. After a strong launch earlier this month, both sophomore Last Man and newbie Malibu Country have been sliding in the ratings, with a steeper decline for Malibu, which started off higher. Even so, with DVR viewing included, Last Man Standing ranks as the top-rated show in Friday’s 8 PM half-hour with Adults 18-49 (2.1/7). Retaining 100% of its adult 18-49 lead-in (2.1/7) from Last Man Standing and gaining viewers, Malibu Country starring Reba McEntire stands as TV’s most-watched freshman comedy this season (8.7 million). Part of the reason for the small back order is the fact that the two shows premiered more than a month after the beginning of the season, so ABC won’t need as many episodes. With their partial back orders, Last Man and Malibu Country join new drama Nashville and new comedy The Neighbors, which received full-season pickups with back-nine orders, as did sophomore drama Scandal. New dramas Last Resort and 666 Park Ave. have been cancelled.
As ABC is nearing back episodic decision on new dramas Nashville (UPDATE: Nashville just received a full-season order), Last Resort and 666 Park Ave, I hear the network has ordered three additional scripts each of comedies Malibu Country and Last Man Standing. Both shows started the fall with 13-episode orders. Freshman Malibu Country and sophomore Last Man Standing launched only two weeks ago. Both had a great start in the Friday 8 PM slot before dropping double-digits in Week 2.
After giving comedies a warm welcome back to Friday last week, viewers turned a cold shoulder last night. In their second week, Last Man Standing (1.6/5) was down 16% from last Friday’s fast national, while Malibu Country (1.6/5) tumbled 27% from its premiere. The comedies surrendered the top spot in the 8 PM hour among adults 18-49 to CBS’ Undercover Boss (2.0/7) which, after a mediocre season start last week, jumped 33% to finish a close second for the night in the demo behind former time slot rival Shark Tank (2.1/6). With its comedy lead-in dropping big, Shark Tank slipped 9% from last week’s series highs but still led ABC to a nightly win in 18-49. The network topped the 9 PM and the 10 PM hours in the demo with Shark Tank and 20/20 (1.6/5, up a tenth from last week)
Meanwhile, CSI: NY (1.4/4) didn’t take advantage of its much improved Undercover Boss lead-in, down a tenth from last week. Blue Bloods (1.5/5) was up two tenths with the episode marking the exit of Jennifer Esposito’s character (for now). CBS won the night in total viewers.
Grimm (1.7/5) was down a tenth from last week with virtually no lead-in (comedy repeats that tied the CW’s America’s Next Top Model in the 8 PM hour). It still ranked as the highest-rated scripted show on the night. Dateline (1.3/4) was flat.
Top Model (0.6/2) was up 50% from …
EXCLUSIVE: Nastaran Dibai has been elevated to executive producer/showrunner of Malibu Country. This is the first showrunner gig for Dibai, who had been a co-executive producer on the ABC/ABC Studios freshman comedy since after the pilot. Dibai succeeds Malibu Country creator/executive producer Kevin Abbott who left the series a month ago when he checked himself into rehab. Abbott, who also serves as an executive producer of ABC’s Last Man Standing, has just completed his treatment. He will resume his duties as an executive producer of Last Man Standing but won’t be back on Malibu Country, at least for the foreseeable future. ABC and ABC Studios had put the succession plan with Dibai in place when Abbott originally left and opted not to shake things up again on a show, which is still finding its footing. Additionally, it is unclear whether Abbott is ready to take on a full load of showrunner responsibility right away. Malibu Country is a priority for ABC after a strong premiere last Friday.
Abbott served as showrunner for most of Last Man Standing‘s first season, stepping in for creator Jack Burditt. Abbott passed on Last Man Standing showrunner duties to Tim Doyle in May to focus on Malibu Country. Doyle continues as showrunner; Abbott will serve as executive producer alongside him.
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.”
Multicamera sitcoms hit a milestone last month when two freshmen, NBC’s Whitney and ABC’s Last Man Standing, were renewed for a second season. It marked the first time a freshman multicamera comedy on a broadcast network other than CBS has made it to Season 2 in five years, since ‘Til Death was awarded a second season on Fox in 2007. Overall, three freshman multicamera comedies, including CBS breakout 2 Broke Girls, went to a second the season, the most in a decade. But despite that major achievement, multicamera comedies lost ground as the single-camera/multicamera divide between CBS and the rest of the broadcast networks deepened this upfront.
ABC, NBC and Fox ordered a combined 14 new comedy series this year, the same as last year, but the number of multicamera comedies dropped by more than half. Of the 14, 5 or 36% were multicamera last year. This time, the number has fallen to two, or 14% — ABC’s Malibu Country and NBC’s Guys With Kids. Fox will have no multicamera series on the air next season, while ABC and NBC will have two each, Malibu Country and Last Man Standing (ABC) and Whitney and Guys With Kids (NBC). In a sign of the hard time the multicamera format has had outside CBS, when ABC recently decided to re-pilot CBS’ Rebel Wilson comedy pilot Super Fun Night, it opted to convert it from multi- to single camera.
Veteran comedy writer-producer Tim Doyle (Rules Of Engagement) has joined ABC’s comedy series Last Man Standing as executive producer/showrunner for its upcoming second season. Kevin Abbott, who held the post for most of last season stepping in for creator Jack Burditt, will continue to serve as an executive producer and will remain integral to Last Man Standing but non-exclusive; his pilot, ABC’s Malibu Country, was picked up to series. (Abbott serves as executive producer/showrunner on Malibu Country, which he’d had in development prior to coming aboard Last Man Standing.) On LMS, which will be paired with Malibu Country on Fridays in the fall, Doyle and Abbott will executive produce alongside Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, Shawn Levy, Tim Allen, Kevin Hench, Rick Baker, and Richard Messina. In addition to the behind-the-scene showrunner change, there will be an on-screen one too on LMS next season. As our sister site TVLine first reported, Alexandra Krosney, who played the eldest daughter of Tim Allen’s Mike and Nancy Travis’ Vanessa, won’t return, with the role likely recast. Doyle’s credits also include Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, and Ellen. Doyle and Abbott are with CAA.
ABC’s The Neighbors - Comedy
Produced by ABC Studios. From writer/executive producer Dan Fogelman and executive producers Aaron Kaplan, Jeff Morton and Chris Koch. Directed by Chris Koch (pilot):
ABC’s 666 Park Avenue – Drama
Produced by Bonanza Productions in association with Alloy Entertainment and Warner Bros Television. From writer/executive producer David Wilcox and executive producers Matthew Miller, Leslie Morgenstein, Gina Girolamo. Directed by Alex Graves (pilot):
ABC is finishing up the slew of new series orders and renewals. The Reba McEntire-starring comedy Malibu Country was the only pilot left in contention when the network made the bulk of its pickups about an hour ago. I hear the multi-camera sitcom will be paired with another multi-camera comedy fronted by a sitcom star Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing. The deal to renew the freshman comedy is almost done. The pickup of Malibu Country, which co-stars Sara Rue, means that NBC’s new series Guys With Kids will have to recast the role she played as a guest star in the pilot as she was in second position to Malibu Country.
For those keeping score, ABC picked up a total of 9 pilots to series today, five dramas and four comedies. The network also will likely look at a couple of other comedy pilots, including the well-received Daddy’s Girls and Ladyfriends, which barely missed the cut at NBC.
(RE-POSTED FROM FRIDAY): Back by popular demand: Deadline’s Pilot Buzz lists. We’re earlier than normal this year while pilots have generally been late, with only a handful of them having cuts by now and the vast majority still in various stages of production. Therefore, everything on this list has to be taken with a gigantic grain of salt as a lot could change between a table read and a final cut. Take NBC’s comedy pilot SAVE ME for example. After some mixed and even negative chatter early on, mostly related to the tone of the show, originally developed for Showtime, the tide changed completely over the last two days when people saw the completed pilot, which is getting high marks. The list also doesn’t cover every pilot as some of them have not gotten into production yet or feedback has been insufficient:
The network already has one new scripted series on tap for next season, HANNIBAL, which I hear may go for midseason. With the network in such bad shape after years of neglect and bad decisions by previous regimes, NBC seems to have cast a very wide net this season, developing a vast range of projects that are all over the map, making it harder to handicap. On the drama side, mystery MIDNIGHT SUN and the Jekyll & Hyde-esque DO NO HARM are getting some solid early buzz. The Jason Katims/Jason Ritter medical drama COUNTY, which just wrapped, also has been getting positive feedback. Western-esque THE FRONTIER, which is shooting in Australia, is getting notices for its rich look. Comedy-wise, ANIMAL KINGDOM is hot, as is White House family comedy 1600 PENN, despite a last-minute recasting, as well as the Matthew Perry starrer GO ON and Greg Daniels’ FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER. The network also is high on a couple of multi-camera comedies, the untitled KARI LIZER and JIMMY FALLON projects, with TABLE FOR THREE also looking encouraging so far. The Ryan Murphy/Ali Adler blended family comedy THE NEW NORMAL is still shooting but, with the auspices involved, it is considered a strong contender. NBC brass seem to like the SARAH SILVERMAN pilot, which had an early order, but Silverman is considered acquired taste, so a lot will depend on testing.
The KEVIN WILLIAMSON project was very strong at the script stage, got even stronger with the casting of Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, and seems to be sailing through production. Meanwhile the untitled KARYN USHER teen-spy drama, which also was an early standout during the script phase, then hit a speed bump in casting the lead, which took a very long time, now appears to be in great shape, with newcomer Saxon Sharbino getting strong reviews. The Williamson and Karyn projects seem to be the top drama contenders at the moment,
Australian actress Penelope Mitchell has been cast in a regular role in Netflix’s new original series Hemlock Grove, from Eli Roth and Gaumont International TV, joining previously cast Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgard and Landon Liboiron. Written by Brian McGreevey and Lee Shipman based on McGreevy’s upcoming goth horror novel, Hemlock Grove revolves around the murder of a young girl found close to the former Godfrey steel mill. The suspects in her killing include Peter (Liboiron), a 17-year-old Gypsy kid from the wrong side of the tracks, and Roman (Skarsgard), the arrogant Godfrey scion, whose sister Shelley is disturbingly deformed and whose mother, Olivia (Janssen), the beautiful and controlling grand dame of Hemlock Grove. In the end, Peter and Roman decide to find the killer themselves. Mitchell, repped by APA and Australia’s JM Agency, will play Roman’s cousin, Letha Godfrey.
Jeffrey Nordling has been cast as a recurring in ABC’s network’s comedy pilot Malibu Country, which centers on Reba Gallagher (McEntire) who, after her “good ol boy” country star husband (Nordling) cheats on her and burns through most of their money, divorces him and moves her family from Nashville to the only asset she has left — a little house in Malibu. Reba’s ex Russell eventually returns to claim his wife and family back. Nordling, repped by APA, recurs on ABC’s Body Of Proof and co-stars opposite Melanie Griffith in the Lifetime pilot …
Regina Hall is set to co-star opposite Martin Lawrence in his CBS comedy pilot. The project, written by Mike Lisbe and Nate Reger and produced by CBS TV Studios, stars Lawrence as Ray, a widowed father of two teenagers who, after losing his job in construction, decides to go to the police academy and become a cop at the age of 46. Hall, repped by ICM and Principato-Young, will play Lisa, a cute, perky police officer and type-A perfectionist who takes an immediate shine to Ray.
Melissa Tang has landed the last regular role in The Goodwin Games, Fox’s single-camera comedy from the How I Met Your Mother trio of Carter Bays, Craig Thomas and Chris Harris. The project revolves around three siblings (Becki Newton, Scott Foley, Jake Lacy) who reconnect after the death of their father when he leaves them his fortune — but only if they agree to his terms.Tang, repped by Abrams Artists and manager Colleen Schlegel, will play the family’s estate attorney role, originally written as a middle-aged man.
Former The Talk co-host Leah Remini is set as the only female cast member of ABC’s comedy pilot White Van Man. The single-camera comedy is a blue collar ensemble based on the British format and centers on Jack (Kyle Bornheimer), who is forced to put his dreams on hold in order to take over the family handyman business from his father Tony (J.K. Simmons). Remini, repped by UTA and the Collective, will play Tony’s happy massage therapist sister. The casting stems from The King Of Queens alumna’s talent deal with ABC. Bobby Bowman wrote the pilot, produced by ABC Studios. Also co-starring are Jonny Pemberton and Edi Gathegi.
Former Less Than Perfect star Sara Rue is back at ABC with a co-starring role opposite Reba McEntire in the network’s comedy pilot Malibu Country. The project, from writer Kevin Abbott, centers on Reba Gallagher (McEntire) who, after her “good ol boy” rock star husband cheats on her and burns through most of their money, divorces him and moves her family from Nashville to the only asset she has left — a little house in Malibu. Rue, repped by APA and the Alan David Group, will play Kim, Reba’s upbeat new neighbor who is a share-too-much, hug-too-freely, trophy wife.
EXCLUSIVE: In her first regular series gig since Murphy Brown, Lily Tomlin has been tapped for a lead role opposite Reba McEntire in ABC’s half-hour pilot Malibu Country. The project, from Reba showrunner Kevin Abbott, centers on Reba Gallagher (McEntire) who, after her “good ol boy” rock star husband cheats on her and burns through most of their money, 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.