EXCLUSIVE: You know when a premise of a show is so unusual, it looks completely made up? Well, this is not one of those cases. TV Land has put in development a half-hour sitcom from Frasier and Desperate Housewives alum Joe Keenan and director Scott Ellis about two adult identical twin brothers, one gay and one straight, who return home and help their mother raise their deceased sister’s child. The project is based on personal experience, times two. Both Keenan and Ellis are gay and have identical twin brothers who are straight. It has been “fascinating” tackling the same premise from the points of view of two very different experiences, said Keenan, whose brother is conservative evangelist and has not spoken to him since Keenan got married four years ago. Meanwhile, Ellis is very close with his brother, who is supportive of him.
As for the brothers on the show, who were brought up by their mother to be very competitive, “their lives implode within weeks of each other,” Keenan said. The straight one, who makes a good living as a minor-league pitcher, is caught cheating on his wife and, while trying to flee his lover’s apartment, hurts his arm, breaking his marriage and career at the same time. Meanwhile, his brother is dumped by his wealthy, older gay partner after a long relationship, left to fend for himself for the first time in years. Keenan and Ellis conceived the idea in the fall, but Ellis was busy developing a 1970s mother/daughter hourlong project already set up at ABC, and by the time the two were ready with the pitch, they missed the current broadcast window. Keenan and Ellis were then approached by TV Land, which was interested in fast-tracking the comedy for a possible June pilot shoot. Instead of waiting another year to get a shot at the broadcast networks, the two jumped in with TV Land.
What also attracted them to the cable network was the fact that their show’s strong older character of the twins’ mother would feel right at home there. (“It’s the network of Betty White!,” Ellis exclaimed.) If the project goes to pilot, it will be directed by Ellis, who is helming three multi-camera broadcast comedy pilots this season: ABC’s The Manzanis and NBC’s untitled Kari Lizer female buddy comedy and untitled Jimmy Fallon male buddy comedy. If they get a green light, CAA-repped Keenan and Ellis don’t plan to seek identical twins for the male leads or have one actor play both parts. Instead, they would cast actors who exhibit similarities in eye in hair color but otherwise look different, just like they don’t resemble their real-life twin brothers. Because of their different lives and lifestyles, the two began to develop strong physical differences from their brothers by their 30s. For example, Keenan’s twin is heavier, with a bushy beard. “I can see what I would look like if I were straight,” Keenan quipped.