The highest-profile casualty at Fox, which picked up three new comedy series today and passed on everything else, was the Steve Levitan-produced pilot Rebounding. The single-camera project was written on spec by Joe Port and Joe Wiseman under the watchful eye of Modern Family co-creator Levitan. Inspired by Port’s real-life experiences, the 20th TV-produced project is described as an uplifting comedy about a man recovering from the death of his fiancé with the help of the idiot buddies on his pick-up basketball team.
It has had a roller-coaster ride. First the spec didn’t create a bidding frenzy as it hit the marketplace very late, on January 30, when networks were pretty much done with their pilot orders. There were also some concerns over the subject matter and whether it could translate into comedy. Fox ultimately stepped up and gave Rebounding a pilot order, bringing Levitan back to the network where he had refused to return for several years following Fox’s controversial 2008 cancellation of the Levitan-Christopher Lloyd comedy series Back To You after one season. Jason Winer, who directed the Modern Family pilot, signed on to direct Rebounding and, after a long search, Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte was cast as the lead. There were early reports from the set of the pilot about a good chemistry between Levitan and Winer reminiscent of their work on the ABC/20th TV hit Modern Family. Then the finished pilot came in and tested huge at 20th TV, higher than the pilot for Modern Family. It also screened well, with Forte getting high marks all around, and, with the auspices involved, the pilot was considered a serious contender, just behind frontrunner and Fox brass favorite, Mindy Kaling’s It’s Messy.
But Rebounding gradually slipped behind Kaling and late bloomer Ben & Kate (formerly Ben Fox Is My Manny), which shot up to second place about a week ago, and the race for the remaining third slot tightened up. While Rebounding was losing momentum at Fox, NBC gave a very early series order to a single-camera comedy with a very similar premise, Go On. It stars Friends alum Matthew Perry as a guy recovering from the death of his wife with the help of the members of his support group. NBC put Go On on a fast-track production schedule for an August launch, assuring that the show would certainly premiere before Rebounding. It is unclear if Go On played into Fox’s decision to pass on Rebounding but I hear Fox’s Kevin Reilly ultimately didn’t believe enough in the show to pick it up. Just the way he felt four years ago when he didn’t renew Back To You for a second season, picking up ‘Til Death instead. Given the impact that cancellation had on Levitan who, along with Lloyd, refused to pitch their next show, Modern Family, to Fox, most industry insiders believed that, with its pedigree and solid tracking, Rebounding would get a series order in part to protect Levitan’s repaired relationship with the network. That didn’t happen, and 20th TV is now trying to shop the pilot elsewhere.