July 25, 2008

Poehler Has a New Job, but Not at ‘the Office’

By David Kronke

This month has seen a unique TV Press Tour -- TV journalists largely have had to query those responsible for the broadcast networks' fall fare without the benefit of actually having seen it.

(Only CBS offered its pilots of fall shows in advance; some got to see Fox's "Fringe," though some saw it in an early, bootlegged version online.)

Summer's TV Press Tour in Beverly Hills technically ended on Monday with NBC, the network that seemingly inspired the notion of conducting press conferences for shows that no one had seen, which could only inspire questions that were less than informed and answers that were less than inspired.

The session that began the final day of media obfuscation was NBC's executive session, featuring the network's co-chairmen, gravitas-dispossessed, hype-friendly Ben Silverman and his more pragmatic if equally dissembling partner, Mark Graboff.

Silverman wasn't obfuscating, just confusing, when discussing the network's upcoming comedy series that would be sponging off the success of "The Office." It wasn't going to be a spinoff, as previously announced, Silverman vowed. It probably wouldn't premiere after the Super Bowl, either, as he had heretofore promised. "Saturday Night Live's" Amy Poehler would star, and "Office" producers would be in charge. But the show would not have to pay "Office" creator Ricky Gervais residuals, Silverman suggested.

"Amy's character will never appear inside the 'Office' world before appearing in the world that she's going to be playing her character in," Silverman said. "So the shows, although (they) stylistically have some elements that are consistent, and creatively have (American 'Office' producers) Greg Daniels and Mike Schur behind it, the show is not set up to emanate directly from 'The Office' like a show like 'The Jeffersons' did (from 'All in the Family')."

Silverman insisted that those who adapted the American version of "The Office" created two series, but that NBC picked up the one they wouldn't have to pay royalties on.

"What happened was, they came up with two ideas -- one which is totally a spinoff, which they're pursuing and planted inside 'The Office' and maybe would involve characters who are already on 'The Office' who could then migrate to a new show," Silverman said.

"And then they developed a different concept in parallel which was kind of set stylistically and formed by 'The Office,' but not characters based in 'The Office' or storylines based in 'The Office.'

"And as they pursued both, we decided to put all our energy to get Amy locked in, and she agreed, and then we started a negotiation with her and also focused on making sure that Mike and Greg's creativity was something that she really was going to respond to.

"And that kind of took position A in what Greg and Mike were going to focus on right now. ... We're still pursuing the spinoff, but when you get a talent like Amy Poehler at the top of her game coming off what easily could have been a decision to become a full- time move star, this was a great chance for us to land her, and Mike and Greg and everybody at NBC think she's just the ideal talent to fill out what they're working on," Silverman added.

Critics were also skeptical as to Silverman's involvement in "Kath & Kim," an adaptation of an Australian sitcom that NBC has lined up for fall 2008. Silverman had helped develop the comedy before he became co-chairman of NBC, but he's still credited as an executive producer on the show, suggesting that he has a financial stake in the series regardless of its ratings performance (since the network announced its pickup, it has been moved to a more desirable time slot).

"We are loving 'Kath & Kim,' incredibly happy with the way the cast is performing and the writing is coming together and the way the show is looking," Silverman announced before his relationship with the show was revealed.

Michelle Nader, the executive producer of the American iteration of the series, explained of Silverman's support, "It's a very unique show, and to have support internally, from the network as well as the studio, has been an amazing thing for us. They really believe in the show, and they want it to work. That's what you need. That's the kind of passion and enthusiasm you need to get a show off the ground."

Or, that's the kind of passion you need to elevate a show on a network that's really struggling.

David Kronke, (818) 713-3638

[email protected]


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