EXCLUSIVE: A+E Networks is venturing into half-hour comedy with Whitey, a pilot from Leslie Greif, the producer behind the blockbuster History miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. The Office alum David Koechner is attached to star in the sitcom project, which is being produced under the A+E Networks umbrella as part of the company’s longstanding relationship Greif and his company Thinkfactory Media. I hear Whitey is being earmarked for History though a decision about which A+E Network the project will go to will be made if the pilot is picked up to series. Greif is in the process of locking in a writer/showrunner for the pilot, which eyes a mid-June start date. Whitey centers on Guy “Whitey” White (Koechner), a bright, conservative and frustrated guy in his 40s who is struggling to understand the changing values of a country in a world that has forever gone with the wind. Whitey graduated high school, married his high school sweetheart and spent his career working at the local engine factory until he got laid off. Now what?
A&E and History both have original drama series on the air (The Glades, Longmire, Bates Motel, Vikings) though neither of them has taken a stab at half-hour scripted comedy. (Sibling Lifetime has in the past with Rita Rocks among other sitcoms, but Whitey is clearly male-skewing.) However, with the line between scripted and unscripted comedy increasingly blurred, Whitey could fit with some of A&E and History’s comedic half-hour blue-collar reality series like A&E’s mega hit Duck Dynasty.
Following the success of Hatfields & McCoys, Greif also is developing a six-hour miniseries for the channel about the formation and rise of the Texas Rangers. On the unscripted side, he just received a pilot order from AMC for Geek Out, hosted by Ernest Cline, and a series order from MTV for dating show The Hook-Up hosted by Andrew Schultz. ImprovOlympic and Second City alum Koechner, repped by CAA, started off as a performer on Saturday Night Live and Late Night With Conan O’Brien before segueing into TV and film acting. He is now reprising his role as Champ Kind in the Anchorman sequel.