The Bernie Mac Show creator Larry Wilmore is returning to the family comedy arena with a twist. Wilmore has partnered with comedian Bassem Youssef, known as Jon Stewart of Egypt, for a comedy about a Middle Eastern American family of superheroes, which has been set up at ABC.
The untitled project (aka Super Challenged Heroes, SCH) is an action-adventure-fantasy show that asks the question: what is it like to be a hero in a world that treats you like a villain? It centers on the Sharif family, an ordinary Middle Eastern American family with two superhero parents at a time when it’s illegal to be a superhero, so they are forced to save the world in secret. The show will highlight some of the issues that immigrant families face when it comes to fitting into a society that many times treats you like the enemy.
“At its heart, it is a family show about assimilation and the difficulties and the problems and the conflicts with assimilation,” Wilmore told Deadline. “There are so many issues immigrant families face becoming Americans To combine this with a fantasy adventure show seemed like an interesting approach to a family show.”
The comedy won’t be topical. “There won’t be a President Trump,” Wilmore said. “Even through it would be America, it won’t be this version of America, it won’t be a political show in this sense, it will be in its own world.”
Wilmore and Youssef are writing the script and are executive producing the comedy for ABC Studios where Wilmore is under an overall deal. This marks his Wilmore Films’ first solo project sale under the ABC Studios pact.
The project stems from a superhero show idea Wilmore had had for a while. It was given a boost when Wilmore inked an overall deal with ABC Studios, with the studio encouraging its writer-producers to explore Disney IP. Wilmore jumped at the prospect of a show based on Pixar’s The Incredibles.
“I was thinking about doing a show that was in that world, not a TV version of The Incredibles but something related to it because it was one of my favorite movies,” Wilmore said.
While that didn’t quite pan out — him being able to work with The Incredibles property — “I decided to still do a superhero show that wasn’t in The Incredibles world but was it in its own world. At first I was going to do a show with a completely different feel and then was watching Tickling Giants, and I thought it would be interesting to do a show about a Middle Eastern Family who are superheroes. It just kind of fit together for some reason. And just seeing how dynamic and funny Bassem was as a person. I thought he might be the type of person who could become a television star.”
While there are no immediate plans for Youssef to star in the project because he doesn’t have acting experience, “I would love for that to happen, that would be my hope,” Wilmore said.
Tickling Giants is a documentary film about Youssef by Wilmore’s friend, Sara Taksler. While Wilmore had known of Youssef while on The Daily Show because Youssef’s comparisons to Stewart, he got to know him a bit when Taksler asked him to moderate a Q&A following a screening of the film.
Wilmore later invited Youssef to breakfast to pitch him the idea for the superhero family show with a Middle Eastern American , to which the Egyptian American immediately sparked to.
“To have ABC challenge the narrative and stereotypes that have long stuck to people in my region is something spectacular to say the least. To have only terrorist roles available for us one day, then get to play superheroes the next, is ground breaking,” Youssef said. “I am grateful to work with, Larry Wilmore, one of the most talented writers and producers in the market. SCH is unprecedented, culture-defining, and entertaining for the whole family.”
In addition to Super Challenged Heroes, Wilmore is executive producing alongside Viola Davis Black Don’t Crack, a multi-camera comedy, which also sold to ABC, as well as a single-dad comedy, which has been redeveloped from last season. Under his overall deal. Wilmore also has been helping on the new ABC/ABC Studios comedy series The Mayor.
Additionally, Wilmore continues to host his “Black On The Air” podcast as part of The Ringer Podcast Network. He also executive produces HBO’s Insecure, which he co-created, and was an executive and showrunner on ABC/ABC Studios black-ish in its first season. He is repped by UTA, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Tom Hoberman.
Youssef is repped by UTA, Anonymous Content and Michael Schenkman.