Nets Seek New Pilots for 2nd Chance at More Laughs

Targeting star vehicles, male leads to jump-start flagging comedy blocks
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The recent cancellations of Fox’s Ben and Kate and ABC’s Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 dashed the hopes of those respective networks for new comedy blocks, a priority for all four broadcasters this season.

Those series join CBS’ Partners and NBC’s Animal Practice as casualties in a season where no new comedy has broken out. ABC’s The Neighbors and Malibu Country, NBC’s Guys With Kids and The New Normal and Fox’s The Mindy Project have been tepid performers, while NBC’s Go On, which thrived out of The Voice this fall, has fallen precipitously without its strong lead-in.

With pilot season in full swing, here are some of the ways each network will attempt to fill their comedy void next fall.

Fox: Bring in the Males

After female-led comedies New Girl and The Mindy Project didn’t post the stellar sophomore and freshman seasons, respectively, that Fox was hoping for, entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly has said he wants to add more male-appealing shows to the comedy block.

“I think that’s part of our challenge on Tuesday night, we’re not getting enough men,” Reilly told a group of reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in January. “We could get a little broader appeal show in that [block]. And I want to be a little louder.”

In the loud column, Fox has already given a straight-to-series commitment to Dads, from executive producer Seth MacFarlane and his Ted cowriters Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. In addition to the six episodes of the multi-cam about two guys in their 30s whose dads unexpectedly move in with them, Fox has picked up three other pilots with male lead characters: Enlisted, which follows three very different brothers working at a small Army base in Florida; an untitled project about a diverse group of detectives at a New York precinct starring Andy Samberg and Terry Crews; and another untitled project from Justin Halpern ($#*! My Dad Says) based on his book, I Suck at Girls.

NBC: Banking on Star Power

The Peacock had high hopes that 1600 Penn would be its answer to Modern Family, but its 1.4 average rating with adults 18-49 is not the breakout needed to rebuild its Thursday night. Despite Animal Practice’s failure, NBC has not given up on going broad in its comedy strategy.

“We’re just constantly striving to figure out what are those shows that can grow the audience,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said at TCA.

NBC hopes it has that with a new Michael J. Fox series, which it gave a 22-episode commitment to last August to lure the Spin City star back to TV. NBC is also banking on several other star vehicles, with pilots starring Jessica Simpson in a comedy loosely based on her life, The Office’s Craig Robinson as a musician adjusting to life as a middle school music teacher and Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) as a father figuring out how to parent his 14-yearold daughter and juggle a temperamental boss.

ABC: Another Round of Funny Femmes

Despite the cancellation of Apartment 23 and with Happy Endings clinging to the bubble, ABC is giving dysfunctional female friendships and the relationship struggles of young singles another go-round in its development.

The network has ordered pilots for Mixology, following singles’ search for love at a Manhattan bar over the course of one night; Pulling, about three dysfunctional women in their 30s living life on their own terms; and Super Fun Night, starring Bridesmaids breakout Rebel Wilson as one of three nerdy female friends on a quest to have “super fun” every Friday night.

CBS: Searching for a Single-Cam Hit

With CBS and Warner Bros.’ desire to return Two and a Half Men, perennial bubble show Rules of Engagement is probably the only CBS comedy in possible danger of not returning next season, leaving few holes to fill.

Notably, the network known for its multicam sitcoms has picked up five single-camera comedy pilots, increasing the chances that one might make it to the schedule (which has not happened since the 2008-09 season).

Those pilots are a TV adaptation of the film Bad Teacher; Ex Men, about a group of guys living in a short-term rental complex; The McCarleys, about a loud, sports-crazed Boston family; Super Clyde, from Raising Hope’s Greg Garcia, which concerns an unassuming fast-food worker who decides to become a superhero; and an semiautobiographical Jim Gaffigan project starring the comedian as a married father of five.

E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com and follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito

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