Barbie Adler finished her season's work as a co-executive producer on NBC hit My Name Is Earl at the end of March—just in time to complete another project: Her daughter Ava was born.
Ava's arrival meant a little extra hiatus, and the Earl crew will be glad to see Adler back on the job. She has had three straight winning seasons of single-camera–comedy writing, one on Earl and two on Arrested Development. A long list of Emmy, WGA and other award nominations is topped by a share of Arrested's '04 Emmy for best comedy and Earl's '06 People's Choice Award for favorite new TV comedy. She has a two-year overall deal with Twentieth Century Fox TV, the kind of thing that could lead to a show of her own in a few seasons.
“If you're suggesting it, I'll take it,” she says. “I'm really excited about developing and writing my own stuff. We'll see.”
Hailing from Omaha, Neb., Adler started out as an NBC page and got her first break running errands for Boy Meets World producer Michael Jacobs back in the mid 1990s. Female mentors, however, have been in short supply. “We're definitely outnumbered, but I've never felt, 'Oh, God, this is a boy's club, what am I gonna do?'” she says. “I'm going to say what I want anyway.”
Being the only woman in the writers' room does have its perks. “You sort of bear the responsibility, spoken or not, of 'Is this what a woman would say?'” she says. “If it's funny, I'm usually OK with it, as long as it's not harmful or insulting.”
Adler grew up on Pink Panther and Marx Brothers movies, then would watch Soap with her mother. “My mom would videotape them, and then she would do some crude editing to edit out anything that was a little racy for me,” Adler recalls. “So it was Soap with some black-screen moments.”
She recalls seeing Soap creator Susan Harris' name popping up in the credits; though not exactly sure what it meant to her at the time, Adler did at least learn that women could work in television.
Her husband, Justin Adler, is also a veteran TV writer, working on ABC's Sons & Daughters last season. The couple met when both worked on short-lived sitcom Bob Patterson, Jason Alexander's first series after Seinfeld.
“Even the shows that fail,” says Adler, “good things come from them.”