EXCLUSIVE: The Middle co-star Charlie McDermott has been cast as the lead in Greg Garcia’s CBS comedy pilot Super Clyde, from CBS TV Studios. He will play the title character, a meek, unassuming fast-food worker who finds his calling.
McDermott was in the clear to take another series regular job because the contracts of The Middle cast expire at the end of this season, and no one has been signed for next fall. I hear WBTV had broached the subject of doing another season with the actors but the vast majority had not been approached about entering negotiations, including McDermott.
It is not entirely WBTV’s fault — The Middle airs on ABC, and the network is notorious about not renewing series until May. There are 20 scripted series already picked up for next season by the other broadcast networks. ABC is the only net this year that has not given a single early renewal. While the assumption is that The Middle, one of the most underappreciated comedy performers on TV and a reliable Wednesday 8 PM anchor, would be picked up for a seventh season, for a studio like WBTV, which is not affiliated with the network, it is not an easy decision to sign rich new actor contracts without a license fee deal in place with the network. Last season, WBTV negotiated a new deal with CBS for The Big Bang Theory first, before proceeding to hammer out new contracts with the original cast.
But the uncertainty leaves The Middle actors in limbo, sitting on the sidelines with no deals for next season while pilot season is going on where performers with series experience are at a premium and highly sought after. For 24-year-old McDermott, currently a supporting player on The Middle, Super Clyde represents an opportunity to lead his own show, which is hard to pass up.
Still, I hear his casting on the CBS pilot came as a surprise to The Middle producers and WBTV who are unhappy and had expected to have the cast available for a potential Season 7.
On The Middle, McDermott plays the eldest Heck child, Axl, currently a business major at East Indiana State University on a football scholarship. Since the character is in college, there is a possibility of Axl not appearing in every episode, with McDermott switching from a regular to recurring status. That is, of course, if Super Clyde goes to series.
There is a lot going for Super Clyde at CBS. Greg Garcia is one of the biggest comedy showrunners on the roster of CBS sibling CBS TV Studios with multiple series under his belt that have gone to syndication, something the network wants to achieve with an owned sitcom. Super Clyde has been a passion project for Garcia who first piloted it for CBS in 2013 with Rupert Grint as the lead. (I hear there is interest in bringing original co-star Stephen Fry to reprise his role in the new pilot.)
CBS has a strong track record in successfully retooling pilots. The original pilots for comedies The Big Bang Theory, The McCarthys and Rules of Engagement were scrapped, with the second ones going to series. The network’s reworked Jim Gaffigan pilot last year also was picked up to series — by TV Land.
As for ABC, in a time when comedy is struggling across the board, the network has had most success with the genre this season, giving it more flexibility which shows to bring back. The network launched a solid new show in Black-ish and grew a sophomore series, The Goldbergs. Modern Family continues to garner accolades, with newbie Cristela doing a decent job on Friday, and midseason entry Fresh Off the Boat showing promise.