Another TV staffing season is coming to a close as, one by one, writers rooms of new and returning series are convening to work on the 2011-12 orders. Overall, “it was a healthy staffing season,” one industry insider said, while another was lamenting the system, in which prospective writers meet on 80+ pilots in the run-up to the upfronts, only a quarter of which would make it to series and actually hire scribes.
Of the new series, comedies New Girl on Fox, Two Broke Girls on CBS and Apartment 23 on ABC were sought after by writers this year. Joining New Girl creator Liz Meriwether are Joe Port and Joe Wiseman as co-executive producers as well as J.J. Philbin and Josh Malmuth. Three established comedy writer-producers will work alongside Two Broke Girls co-creator/executive producer Michael Patrick King — Greg Malins, Jhoni Marchinko and Michelle Nader, all as consulting producers. On ABC’s Apt. 23, joining EPs Nahnatchka Khan and Dave Hemingson are Casey Johnson & David Windsor (It Takes a Village) and Sally Bradford as co-executive producers.
Writers seemed split on the drama side this year. “Some gravitated toward the big-idea, big-swing shows like Once Upon a Time, The River and Pan Am, others wanted nothing to do with them, opting to go for more standard procedurals like Person of Interest, Prime Suspect and Unforgettable,” one source said. “A lot of writers are thinking about job security.” Also of note is that Josh Friedman’s Locke & Key script was a favorite among writers looking for staff jobs this season despite Fox passing on the pilot.
Of the existing shows, top comedy Modern Family was naturally a top draw. Sex and the City alumna Cindy Chupack is a high-level addition for next season as a co-executive producer, with former Daily Show EP Ben Karlin on board as consulting producer. Fellow sophomore series Glee also made news this staffing season as the high-school dramedy assembled its first writing staff under co-creators/executive producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, with co-executive producer Allison Adler and consulting producer Marti Noxon among the additions. And NBC’s The Office, which is undergoing a creative transition following the departure of star Steve Carell, added several writers, Owen Ellickson as co-producer, Allison Silverman as supervising producer and Dan Greaney as consulting producer.
Several high-profile staffing hires were tied to overall deals. Port and Wiseman joined New Girl as part of a two-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV. Similarly, Friedman will serve as consulting producer on another new Fox series, drama The Finder, under a three-year overall pact with 20th TV. Reaper creators/executive producers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters will be full-time consulting producers on Hawaii Five-0 as part of a two-year overall deal with CBS TV Studios. And Zack Estrin will serve as an exec producer on The River in a deal with ABC Studios, which also has an overall component.
There were a few in-demand writers this staffing season who landed multiple offers. Among them was Patricia Breen, who is coming off HBO’s Big Love. She opted to join the new ABC/Warner Bros comedy series Suburgatory. In a siminal situation, Amanda Segel (Nikita) went to CBS’ Person of Ineterest. Josh Bycel also had multiple suitors but ended up returning to ABC’s Happy Endings, which was picked up for a second season.