Fox’s new Surviving Jack, about a dad and his relationship with his son in the ’90s, is based on Justin Halpern’s autobiographical book, I Suck At Girls. Halperin also created CBS’ comedy $h*! My Dad Says — also about his relationship with his father — based on his book that was, in turn, based on his Twitter feed. TV critics attending a Q&A about Jack at TCA this afternoon noted the similarity between the two comedies and asked what went wrong with the CBS one. “It was really bad,” Halpern said. “You’re aware you created that show,” joked Bill Lawrence, who exec produces Jack with Halpern, Patrick Schumacker and Jeff Ingold. “Yes, and I put the blame squarely on Patrick,” Halpern joked. The CBS sitcom, he said, was “very much the wrong tone.” The dad character, he said, did not live well in a multi-cam sitcom world where it’s all about setup and punch lines. On a single cam, “the comedy comes more organically,” he said.
Christopher Meloni plays the dad in Surviving Jack. After starring for a dozen years on NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, Meloni said he had few requirements for his next TV project “except for this; no grim circumstances for 22 one-hour episodes. … I could be grim for 13 episodes.” The Jack pilot, he said, was “the funniest thing I’ve read all year. … I’d worked with Bill and knew him socially, and I agreed with how he ran things and his comedic sensibility. I immediately understood the humor. … Then I met with Justin, and that nearly scuttled the deal — but then I met Rachel [Harris, who plays his wife], and that brought it back up and they said I could ‘have sex’ with Rachel – in the script. … Done.”
Although the show — which also stars Connor Buckley as the kid — is set in the ’90s, it’s not a nostalgic slice of life in The Wonder Years vein, Lawrence said. But “these guys sold us on the show partly based on the pitch that it was a time when you couldn’t just hit a button on your phone and … know everything immediately.” Surviving Jack premieres at 8:30 PM Thursday, March 27. following the American Idol results show.