At a raucous lunch panel for the returning comedy series Undateable, EP Bill Lawrence became the poster boy for a point made earlier by entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt: NBC should get back into the multicam comedy biz.
Perhaps coining a phrase, Lawrence said he misses “comfort comedy” where you like the characters, feel at home and laugh a lot rather than being faced with edgy, single-cam dramedy. Lawrence — who says he wrote for Friends for a year “before they fired me” and is a Spin City veteran — loved Cheers, Taxi, Seinfeld, stuff like that. No better place to do that than network TV, he said.
Joined on the panel by EPs Jeff Ingold, Adam Sztykiel and cast members, Lawrence joked that Undateable, introduced in the summer, is returning for a second season after having been on the air for “half the number of episodes of a regular season.”
Changes have been made for Season 2: popular singer/songwriter Bridgit Mendler has been added to the cast. Lawrence says series stars also plan to do another “grass roots” promotional tour. “When I started in comedy, you had a season to get your legs — now you are getting a call on Episode 3,” Lawrence said. “As the TV universe gets more fragmented, that grass roots stuff can work.”
Given the ongoing discussion of the lack of diversity in yesterday’s Academy Award nominations — and NBC executives trumpeting their commitment to diversity earlier today — it’s hard to ignore that this show, set in majority-black Detroit, has only one black cast regular, Ron Funches. After the panel, Deadline asked: Really?
Lawrence said he’s on it, perhaps including diverse actors in the future to portray the women Funches’ character dates. And he added: “It’s not just about blacks, we’re interested in more diversity” going forward.