EXCLUSIVE: The team behind Netflix’s Astronomy Club are moving onward and upward following the cancellation of their sketch comedy show and have partnered with The Problem With Apu producer Cowboy Bear Ninja on a new project.
The comedy troupe are developing Sherlock Homies, a comedy series that they describe as Curb Your Enthusiasm-meets-Reno 911 about Harlem’s first all-black detective agency.
The series is the brainchild of Shawtane Bowen, who is one of eight members of Astronomy Club, which also includes Jonathan Braylock, Ray Cordova, James III, Caroline Martin, Jerah Milligan, Monique Moses, and Keisha Zollar.
Bowen said that the show was informed by living in Harlem for eight years. “I had a lot of interactions with the cops,” he told Deadline. “I thought it’d be interesting to do a show on Harlem’s first and last all black detective agency.”
Cowboy Bear Ninja partner Michael Melamedoff, who exec produces Black Women OWN The Conversation for Oprah Winfrey’s cable network, added that the show, which they are taking out to broadcasters and streaming platforms this week, is strongly structured with outlines. “The way that the format is set up is that it’s designed so that we have an outline that the ‘Homies’ are solving and that mystery, while we know the beginning and the end of it, the scenes and action open up for the team to improve along the way,” he added.
Jerah Milligan said that they wanted to make a show that was funny and silly. “Everything seems very timely; a lot of these things on black sketch shows seem to be ahead of their time but it’s the reality we’ve always lived in and the world has caught up with us,” he said. “We’re in a time where black people, in particular, are getting a chance to venture out and not just do the same thing that we’ve been forced to do like playing a thug or a drug dealer so with Sherlock Homies we’ve got the opportunity to create a heightened world like Curb Your Enthusiasm or Reno 911.”
Historical black figures will pop up in each episodes, including the likes of Marie Van Brittan Brown, the inventor of first home security system. “We’ve got a chance to show people our history. A lot of people didn’t know about Tulsa, Oklahoma until Watchmen came out so we have an opportunity with this show to go beyond what the normal civil rights activist people know, we can bring up everything from our heritage and put it on display in a fun way,” added Milligan.
Bowen added, “Like Reno 911, it allows all eight of us to play different characters each week and there’s an opportunity for us to bring in lots of guest stars and up and coming and established black comedians and actors.”
On Milligan’s dream list for guest stars is This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown. “He will be in a comedy. I don’t know what he’s going to do but he’s hilarious.”
This comes after Netflix cancelled Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show in February. The show, which featured sketches that explore an array of topics ranging from pop culture and social issues to the Black experience, was exec produced by Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, showrunner Daniel Powell and Khalabo Ink Society’s Anni Weisband.
The troupe are hopeful that they can find another home for the series, or at least another broadcaster willing to set up a sketch show with them, but they are incredibly proud of the series.
Caroline Martin told Deadline, “It was hard, it was a dream job, writing, acting and producing with your close friends. It’s not the end of Astronomy Club, we’ll find something else to do.”
“We got a show on Netflix, the biggest streaming platform in the world, at the end of the day that is an accomplishment,” added Milligan. “Of course we wanted to be renewed for season two, but hey, we wrote it our self, we produced, I directed, we starred in it and it was funny. We did it as black people, that’s hard.”