In May, ABC‘s last-minute third-season renewal of Suburgatory as midseason replacement came at a price: lower license fee and the exit of Alan Tudyk and Rex Lee as series regulars. Lee played the high school’s guidance counselor and Tudyk was Jeremy Sisto’s country-clubbing dentist pal. Suburgatory launched well in the fall of 2011 but lost steam in its second season (It’s third-season return, on Wednesday, clocked 5.3 million viewers and a 1.6 demo rating, off The Middle’s 7.5 million viewers and 1.8 rating). Not surpringly, a Q&A session at the TCA Winter TV Press Tour began with a series of “bummer questions.”
The ABC comedy series’ creator has been hit with a breach-of-contract and fraud suit by her former manager. In a suit filed today in LA Superior Court (read it here), The Gotham Group‘s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein claims that Emily Kapnek stopped paying commissions after the Suburgatory creator signed a two-year overall deal with the series’ producer Warner Bros. TV in April.
Goldsmith-Vein says in the lawsuit that she had managed Kapnek’s career starting in 1999, after having been her agent the year before, and had always received her 10%. But Goldsmith-Vein claims that after Kapnek landed her first overall deal this spring, she “reached a point where she believed she was self-reliant, discarded plaintiffs, and broke her word and the parties’ contract. In direct violation of the Gotham Management Agreement and her promise to plaintiffs, Kapnek has failed to make any further commission payments at all to plaintiffs, whether related to Suburgatory, the Warner Bros Deal or any other matter, and plaintiffs fear that future breaches will be forthcoming.”
Vlada Gelman is West Coast Reporter at TVLine
Jane Levy had only one credit to her name – Showtime’s Shameless – before landing the lead role in ABC’s Suburgatory. But watching the young actress hold her own as Tessa Altman against established actors like Jeremy Sisto, Ana Gasteyer and Cheryl Hines, it’s clear her talent is greater than her years. Now, the ingénue is on the radar of Emmy voters too.
AWARDSLINE: What has it been like carrying a show?
LEVY: I don’t really feel like I am [but] I’m constantly told that. At first, it was heavily narrated, and most of the show was about either Tessa or George’s storyline. But halfway through the season, [creator] Emily [Kapnek] realized that we have such a strong ensemble cast and she had to use them. I feel extremely safe, like I don’t even need to do anything because I’m surrounded by incredible actors and hilarious people. I don’t feel the need to be funny because of them.
Related: EMMYS: Comedy Series Overview
Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
If the 2011-2012 TV schedule is any indication, girls just want to be funny. There are probably more new comedies created, co-created or executive-produced by women in primetime than at any time in history: 2 Broke Girls (Whitney Cummings), The B**** In Apartment 23 (co-creator Nahnatchka Khan) and Girls (Lena Dunham, 2011’s best first screenplay winner at the Independent Spirit Awards for Tiny Furniture). There are more who also might find themselves in the Emmy mix, and Awardsline spoke separately to some of them: Jessika Borsiczky, co-executive producer of Showtime’s House of Lies; Emily Kapnek, creator and co-executive producer of ABC’s Suburgatory; Elizabeth Meriwether, creator and co-executive producer of the Fox comedy New Girl and Emily Spivey, the Saturday Night Live veteran who created and is a co-executive producer of NBC’s Up All Night.
AWARDSLINE: There’s been a lot said about the new shows with women at the helm, especially in comedy. Certainly female comedy was a goldmine for the movies in 2011 with Bridesmaids. What’s going on?
EMILY SPIVEY: I think there just happened to be some ladies with ideas that people liked, I don’t think it was a big conspiracy to get a bunch of ‘lady shows’ on the air. The time has come when more ladies are trying comedy. In the past it was kind of a man thing, especially with stand-up. I think women are really finding their voices and being allowed to be a little more aggressive and speaking about topics that maybe a few years ago were a little more taboo than they are now.
JESSIKA BORSICZKY: We are sort of hitting a place where there’s some real seniority to women in television. When I started at HBO (in the movie division) in 1992 I certainly wasn’t running television shows, it took a long time. But obviously storytelling and movies reflect what’s interesting about our times. The universe of what it is to be a modern woman right now is deep, it’s changing, there’s a lot of fluctuation in family and marriage. Women are now out-earning men and out-educating men and having babies without men so there are a lot of stories to tell. And look at Girls, it’s also showing us a side of what it is to be a young woman that’s new.
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
Do shows like Don’t Trust the B— In Apartment 23, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and the Fox series New Girl mean we’re in some kind of women’s renaissance in network TV? At this morning’s TCA session on Apartment 23, creator/executive producer Nahnatchka Khan concluded, well, maybe. But in an afternoon panel featuring producers from ABC’s successful Wednesday night comedy block, the female showrunners of The Middle, Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline, pointed out that they’ve been funny for some time now — behind the scenes. “It’s exciting, but we always thought women had funny things to say,” said Heisler. “I think Tina Fey — and us — poked a little hole that allowed for this. We’ve been doing it for a while, and we’re glad to have company.” The Middle is a family show, not a snarky sitcom about a bitch or an emotionally unstable female roommate. But after the panel, Heisler said the show will continue to borrow as guest stars the veterans of that classic comedy about the “girl” who’s gonna make it after all, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Harking back to his Lou Grant character, Ed Asner will portray the editor of the local paper.
ABC has ordered full seasons of its new series Revenge and Suburgatory. The network also has ordered six more scripts of its sophomore comedy Happy Endings. The news comes after some encouraging ratings news on all 3 shows this morning, with Happy Endings and freshman Revenge posting week-to-week gains and …