ABC has given pilot orders to two of its highest-profile comedy projects, Start Up, toplined and directed by Scrubs star Zach Braff, which had a put pilot commitment, and an untitled half-hour about a hip-hop artist-turned-mayor from writer Jeremy Bronson (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) and Hamilton co-star Daveed Diggs, which had a cast-contingent pilot production commitment.
The single-camera Start Up, which reunites Braff with Scrubs co-executive producer Matt Tarses, hails from Sony TV and studio-based Davis Entertainment. The City Mayor project, also single-camera, is from ABC Studios and Jamie Tarses, Scott Stuber & Dylan Clark’s studio-based Bluegrass FanFare.
Written by Tarses, Start Up is based on Alex Blumberg’s podcast Start Up. It is a show about all the things that happen — the good, the bad and the ugly — when a guy (Braff) in his mid-30s with a wife and two kids makes the crazy decision to quit his good job and dive into the brave new world of starting a business. (The title of the comedy will likely change as it matches the name of a new Crackle drama series.)
Tarses and Braff executive produce with Davis Entertainment’s John Davis and John Fox as well as Gimlet Media’s Chris Giliberti, Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber. Braff will direct the pilot. Davis Entertainment executive Mike Stein found the podcast and brought it to the company.
Braff has focused on features and writing-directing following his breakout starring turn on the single-camera medical comedy Scrubs, which originated on NBC and ended its run on ABC. Tarses created comedy Mad Love for CBS and Sony TV. He recently worked as a consulting producer on the studio’s ABC comedy series The Goldbergs.
Davis Entertainment has comedy Dr. Ken at ABC, one of four broadcast series the company has on the air next season along with dramas Timeless, The Blacklist and spinoff The Blacklist: Redemption on NBC. The company has two projects in contention at Fox, a Behind Enemy Lines reboot and a David Shore/McG action drama loosely based on I Spy.
Blumberg, a former producer for This American Life, is the CEO of Gimlet Media which he co-founded with Lieber. Blumberg hosts the Start Up podcast whose first season chronicles the launch of Gimlet, a company that produces narrative podcasts.
Written and executive produced by Bronson, the untitled City Mayor Project centers on a struggling hip-hop artist who runs for mayor to promote his mixtape – and wins.
Diggs executive produces. The rapper-actor, who won a Tony for playing Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway smash Hamilton, is not attached to act in the project, which also is executive produced by Tarses, Stuber and Clark via Bluegrass FanFare. James Griffiths, who directed the pilot for the ABC/ABC Studios comedy series Black-ish, will direct and executive produce.
Bronson, who previously worked as a political producer for MSNBC, serves as a co-executive producer on ABC’s new comedy Speechless — co-produced by 20th TV and ABC Studios — as part of his overall deal at ABC Studios. His other credits include The Mindy Project, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where he served as head monologue writer and creator of Fallon’s signature “Thank You Notes” segment. Diggs recently had recurring roles on Netflix/Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down and ABC’s Black-ish.
This marks the first pilot order for Bluegrass FanFare in its first development season since launching late last summer. The company also has comedic drama Women in Black at ABC from The Carrie Diaries creator Amy B. Harris.
At ABC, Start Up and the City Mayor project join single-camera comedy pilots Libby and Malcolm and Raised By Wolves.