EXCLUSIVE: Top TV comedy director Jason Winer (Modern Family) has teamed with hot comedy writer Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect) for The Runt, a half-hour project that has landed at CBS with a pilot production commitment. Written by Cannon and to be directed by Winer, The Runt is a single camera comedy about a group of five adult siblings from the point of view of The Runt. Always the scrawniest and the butt of the joke, she’s now the most successful. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t seem to break the family dynamics established when she was a kid. 20th Century Fox TV, where both Winer and Cannon are under overall deals, is producing. This marks the first sale for Winer’s Small Dog Picture Co, launched in June when he brought in NBC executive Renate Radford to run it. Winer, Cannon and Radford executive produce. Winer said Cannon was at the top of his and Radford’s priority list. “Kay and I have similar comedy DNA,” said Winer, noting that she is from Chicago where he went to college and both have ties to the town’s ImrovOlympic and Second City troupes. The two had tried to work together before but “the business gods didn’t smile at us” until this year. “We wanted to get a very personal show out of Kay,” Winer said. “She is from a family of 7 brothers and sisters and is the self-described runt, the smallest and scrappiest and always the butt of the jokes.” Things have not changed much now that Cannon is a successful writer, Winer added. He too relates to the premise. “As a diminutive guy, I identify with the concept of the runt and the person who always fights for the little guy,” he said, adding that the character on the show is an attorney who represents clients in class action lawsuits, “always fighting for the weak against the strong.”
Cannon, repped WME and Brillstein Entertainment, is co-executive producer on Fox/20th TV’s New Girl. She spent 6 years on NBC’s 30 Rock, starting as a staff writer in Season 1 and rising to supervising producer. In 2010 she received an Emmy nomination for co-writing with 30 Rock creator/star Tina Fey the “Lee Marvin Vs. Derek Jeter” episode of the show. On the feature side, Cannon’s first script, Pitch Perfect, became a sleeper hit for Universal, which has greenlighted a sequel penned by her. Cannon represents the type of writers Small Dog Picture wants to be in business with, Winer said. “She is relentlessly positive, has an amazing and unique voice and real leadership capabilities. And being mentored by Tina for so many years didn’t hurt.”
The Runt expands Winer’s relationship with CBS where he serves as executive producer/director on the new comedy series The Crazy Ones starring Robin Williams. Winer, repped by ICM Partners and Mosaic, helmed the pilot and is directing 6 of the series’ first 13 episodes. Last year, he also landed a pilot production commitment at the network for a single-camera comedy penned by Tami Sagher and Kourtney Kang.