Fox is launching mockumentary comedy Welcome To Flatch on March 17 and will drop the first seven episodes on Hulu.
It’s an unusual move for a linear broadcast network and something that director and exec producer Paul Feig called “unbelievable”. “To come up with this idea for a network show is unheard of. People don’t latch on to a show until they can binge it,” he said during a Deadline moderated panel session at SXSW in Austin, Texas.
The series, which comes from showrunner and exec producer Jenny Bicks and Feig, is based on BBC Three comedy This Country and follows a documentary crew that sets out to explore the lives of residents in the small American town of Flatch.
Michael Thorn, president of Fox Entertainment, said that the team behind the series, which is produced by Lionsgate, BBC Studios’ LA production arm and Fox Entertainment, was up for a new approach.
“I think there’s about 500 scripted shows on television right now so it’s incredibly challenging for any platform to launch a show impactfully. We stepped back and felt we had some really special and unique. We thought about how do we set this up for success. Comedies do not launch with big numbers, they’re more of a slow growth. Our hope is that however you experience it, you will find the characters and the show as contagious as we do… and then the back half of the season will be all on Fox and our hope is that by the time that the audience connects with the first seven episodes, they will be on the edge of their seat for episode eight and come back to a more traditional viewing platform,” Thorn said.
He pointed to shows such as The Office, Seinfeld and Schitt’s Creek that all launched relatively slowly before massive hits. “It’s tough to launch any show in general… it just takes time. We have found our animated series take a couple of years to catch on. If that’s the pattern, don’t fight it, don’t lie to yourselves that this one will be different, try something new. It’s the nature of the way people are watching shows now.”
Holmes, who plays Kelly Mallet, had an unusual entry into television. She began posting videos online, spurred on by her ex-boyfriend, that caught the eye of Feig and Bicks. Welcome To Flatch was her first starring role, calling it a “dream show”.
Similarly, Sam Straley, who plays Shrub Mallett, had his ex-girlfriend to thank for encouraging him to read. “This is dedicated to our exes”, joked Holmes.
The team had an unusual route to screen with filming on the pilot being interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. They had only filmed one day before having to shut down. However, the team was able to craft a ten-minute presentation, which was enough for Thorn and his team at Fox to give them a 14-episode order.
“That is such a testament to the performers. These guys all rolled with it. It was a full on, let’s put on a show and it was fun but we certainly didn’t expect to only have one day of shooting,” said Bicks.
Thorn said the experience with the presentation has meant that he’s leaning towards doing more presentations than traditional pilots in comedy. Other comedy projects in the works at Fox include meteorologist comedy Cindy Snow from The Flight Attendant creator Steve Yockey and a witness protection comedy from Dollface showrunner Michelle Nader.
Welcome to Flatch is executive produced by Perkins Street Productions’ Bicks, Feigco Entertainment’s Feig, BBC Studios’ Angie Stephenson and Charlie Cooper and Daisy May Cooper, who created the original BBC series.
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