Bless This Mess, created/executive produced by Bell and Elizabeth Meriwether (Single Parents, New Girl), originated at 20th Century Fox TV and was set up at Fox where it received an off-cycle pilot order early this year. The pilot, directed by Bell, was delivered to the network a couple of months ago, with top Fox brass said to have been high on it. With the network’s ownership (and leadership) in transition, the pickup decision was put off but as the cast options were expiring this month, a call had to be made.
Bless This Mess was one of three off-cycle comedy pilots ordered by Fox this year. The others, a revamped Dan the Weatherman, starring Thomas Lennon, and Rob McElhenney and Rob Rosell’s Mean Jean, starring Leah Remini and Kaitlin Olson, also are not going forward.
Fox has no scheduling needs this midseason, and I hear new Fox topper Charlie Collier was not ready to commit to Bless This Mess for next fall before he has seen the network’s development. (He had to make the decision just days into his new job.) Fox already ordered two new animated comedy series for next season, Bless The Harts starring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph and Hoops starring Jake Johnson, and multi-camera freshmen sitcoms Last Man Standing and Cool Kids look promising to return. With football and baseball, joined by wrestling, on the fall schedule, Fox executives are trying to be selective with the available real estate, going for new series that they can platform with football.
Meanwhile, ABC brass had been keeping a close eye on Bless This Mess and jumped at the opportunity when the project became available. The network has a need for a short-order comedy series in midseason as it opted not to proceed with The Middle spinoff and only has The Goldbergs spinoff Schooled on tap. Sophomore comedy Splitting Up Together received a five-episode back order, and ABC has not announced a spring replacement for the romantic comedy after it wraps its 18-episode season. This would be one opportunity for Bless This Mess.
The series pickup by ABC, whose parent company Disney is buying key 21st Century Fox assets, including 20th TV, marks the first official order for new ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke. Bless This Mess will be a co-production between soon-to-be corporate siblings 20th Century Fox TV and ABC Studios.
“Bell and Shepard headline a stellar cast in this hilarious take on a classic fish-out- of- water story that we found irresistible,” said Burke.
In Bless This Mess, a newlywed couple’s (Bell, Shepard) plan to ditch big city living for a simpler life in Nebraska doesn’t go as expected. The cast also includes Ed Begley Jr., Pam Grier, JT Neal and Christina Offley.
Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar (Fresh Off the Boat, Speechless) are executive producers, as are Shepard and Katherine Pope.
The pickup gives New Girl creator Meriwether two series on ABC; she also is executive producing breakout freshman comedy Single Parents, which has a full-season order.