If you’re one of those dour TV viewers who routinely says, “Ah, I could write a funnier show than this crap,” time to put up or shut up.
The once-mighty NBC, former home of Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, et al, is making TV history by looking beyond the usual Hollywood circles to find its next great half-hour comedy, but also looking to an A-list cast of talent to help.
The peacock network, which has had abysmal success in the sitcom department in recent years, is reaching out to find untapped comedy talent with a grassroots contest called NBC’s Comedy Playground.
In a broadcast first, the network is inviting anyone with an original sitcom pitch to submit their great big idea between May 1 and June 30.
“We are taking a bold, alternative approach in what we hope will uncover original comedy minds who are looking for a way to get into the television business,” said NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke. Salke made the announcement at NBCU Press Day in Pasadena, Calif.
The gameplan is for NBC to whittle the pitches down to 10 finalists. That group will then receive a minimal budget from the network to create a 20-minute video presentation of their comedy concept. After that, an advisory board of comedic talent gathered by NBC will screen and comment on the video pitches.
Included in the group: Jason Bateman (Arrested Development), Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives), Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live), Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Craig Robinson (The Office), and Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari (Parks & Recreation). It also includes comedy veteran Sean Hayes, formerly of Will & Grace. Hayes’s most recent sitcom, Sean Saves the World, was recently cancelled by NBC.
“We love that an incredible A-list roster of producers, writers, and performers have jumped in to help us find that untapped talent,” said Salke.
The comedy advisers will narrow down the group of 10 to two final contenders that will be put into production for the next TV season. There’s even hope for the eight other finalists, whose video presentations will be put on NBC’s website and then put up for public vote.
Ideally, NBC hopes to discover the next great network sitcom, but isn’t dismissing the possibility that two shows could win the competition if the public vote is split. The winning shows would be scheduled to premiere in the summer of 2015.