Fox’s The Winner, starring The Daily Show’s Rob Corddry, was a long time coming to the small screen.
Creator Ricky Blitt first conceived of the show eight years ago as a film along the lines of Steve Carell’s very successful The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The concept mimicked Blitt’s own life: he lived with his parents in Canada until he was 32, Blitt told an audience at the Aspen Comedy Festival over the weekend, and at 32, found himself – shall we say – very sexually inexperienced.
“When I was pitching this, executives would stop me in mid-pitch and go, ‘We’ve got to stop you and just ask you, one thing is jumping out at us: how is it possible that somebody is a 42-year-old virgin?’ And I would look very frightened and say, ‘Well, no, you’re right, I guess. Let’s just say one of them hit his head on the pavement and another one made a pact with the mob that he couldn’t use his penis until he was 43 — I don’t even understand why exactly. But let’s just say, you’re right, how could that exist in our physical universe?’ And I would weep until about Christmas,” says Blitt, who declared on the panel not to worry about him because he’s now dating a beautiful 26-year-old pianist.
After Carell’s movie earned so much money, Blitt, once a writer on Seth McFarlane’s The Family Guy, decided to try again: “The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I thought, made it possible to do a show that I felt [would speak to] a lot of people who weren’t serviced on TV, people who didn’t have regular consensual sex, who were late-bloomers.”
McFarlane helped grease the wheels for Blitt, offering to serve as an executive producer and getting Blitt a meeting with the studio. Once the project was underway, casting the main character – an unemployed 32-year-old who is still living with his parents in Buffalo – proved difficult.
Says Blitt: “Rob was the last person who put himself on tape for this thing. And I have to say, I was blown away. It is such a fragile kind of character to play. You don’t want to make him seem like a simpleton or a literal man-child. It looks like something that was developed for Rob.”
Corddry says he had just told The Daily Show’s producers that he would not leave the show unless the perfect project landed on his desk. Two days later, he says, “I got this script and I had to go for it. The producers were less than thrilled.”
The Winner premiered on Fox last night at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. ET.
By Paige Albiniak