Rob Schneider is returning to series television, this time on his own terms. In a endeavor he hopes “shakes up Hollywood”, the actor-comedian is self-financing and starring in an eight-episode independently produced comedy series he co-wrote with his wife, Mexican writer-producer Patricia Azarcoya Schneider, who will co-star on the show, and his friend, comedian Jamie Lissow. “I want to do my own Fawlty Towers,” said Rob Schneider, referring to the popular British sitcom, which John Cleese co-wrote and starred in with his then-wife Connie Booth. Like his 2012 comedy Rob on CBS, where his wife was played by a professional actress, the new show will be loosely based on Schneider’s life. But the similarities end there. Rob, which is the subject of a joke in the pilot of the new series, was a traditional multi-camera, multi-generational sitcom about a guy, his Mexican wife and his in-laws. As the title of the new series, Real Rob, indicates, it is a more honest portrayal of “an exaggerated version of my life,” Schneider said. “I’m not afraid to expose aspects of my life; this is close to the bone.” The single-camera, documentary-style half-hour is edgier, geared to cable networks. It centers on Rob, playing a version of himself, his Mexican wife Patricia, also playing herself, Rob’s incompetent assistant whom he cannot fire because he is his friend, and Rob’s personal stalker. The narrative is punctuated by Schneider doing stand-up bits in the vein of FX’s Louie and the early years of Seinfeld. The Schneiders and Lissow have written all eight scripts. Casting of the remaining roles is underway with filming slated to begin March 3 in Los Angeles (exteriors) and Florida’s Full Sail University studio facilities (interiors).
As an independent production, Real Rob is being made for less than a network show by keeping costs down. “The biggest expense on Rob was Rob Schneider, and we managed to cut that cost down to zero,” quipped Schneider, who is not getting paid for his services. To mount a series production without the backing of a studio, the Schneiders have relied on help from friends. Schneider is footing most of the bill as “the majority shareholder on the show” — “I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” he said — but he also has silent financial partners. Also helping out are veteran casting director and former Disney head of casting Marcia Ross, who is doing the casting, and Mexican cinematographer Carlos Hidalgo Valdes, who is behind the camera. Everyone is getting paid below their regular rate but “we will all share in success,” Schneider said. He’s already in discussions with potential international distributors and plans to take the series out to U.S. networks like FX, HBO and Showtime, plus Netflix, when production is completed, though he also is open to non-traditional online distribution.
After 25 years in the Hollywood system and two network sitcoms — Men Behaving Badly and Rob — why is Schneider taking an independent route with Real Rob? For starters, he is not fond of pilot season and the pressures of always thinking about advertisers and living and dying by ratings and lead-in retention. As for creative interference, “I always felt that I didn’t mind the notes from the networks and the studios though I didn’t always find them to be helpful,” he said. Schneinder’s name is on the show, and he wanted to be the one making the calls. “I feel like I’ve got a good handle on what’s funny,” he said. Schneider compares himself to fellow comedy actor Tyler Perry who, also disillusioned with the traditional network model, opted to take an independent path with what is now known as the 10-90, Debmar-Mercury or Tyler Perry model. “They’ll call this the Rob Schneider model,” Schneider said.
The Saturday Night Live alum hopes he is opening the door for others. “If I pull this off, other actors are going to realize that they can go around the networks and studios and get their shows out to the public,” he said. “This is an important step in artists controlling their own destiny.”