Superstar showrunners Mike Schur and Tina Fey are back in business with NBC. After systematically cleansing the Peacock schedule of all remnants of late-era Must-See TV, the network Thursday reversed course, announcing a 13-episode series commitment to a new half-hour from Parks and Recreation creator Schur, and a pilot order for a comedy project overseen by Fey and 30 Rock partner Robert Carlock. Both untitled projects are designed to be vehicles for as-yet-unnamed female stars. Schur’s series will revolve around a “strong and particularly complicated female character … in a comedy like nothing seen before, about a woman wrestling with what it means to be good,” said a woman wrestling with what it means to produce good television, i.e., NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke. She said Schur recently pitched her “the entire first season” of the show. “We loved it so much, we ordered it to production,” Salke added.
The Fey-Carlock project, meanwhile, will take a more traditional path to air, with NBC first making a pilot episode before it (and Fey/Carlock) decides whether the show merits a full series order. Tracy Wigfield (The Mindy Project) is writing and creating the potential series, which NBC says “centers on a mother-daughter relationship that is challenged when an overly involved New Jersey mom gets an internship at her daughter’s workplace, a cable-news network.” Carlock and Fey most recently created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for NBC, but ultimately asked the network to let the show go before it bowed on the network, thus allowing it to migrate to Netflix. While there’s no word on how many people have seen it, on at least some level, the move worked: Kimmy generated great buzz and was recently nominated for seven Emmys.
NBC’s decision to move forward with new projects from Fey, Carlock, and Schur appears to signal a bit of a course correction for the network on the comedy front. Since the arrival of NBC chief Robert Greenblatt a few years ago, the network appeared to be moving away from upscale, critically acclaimed — and low-rated — comedies like those created by the three producers. While the network never fully committed to any other specific comedy brand — such as CBS-style multi-camera comedies, or ABC-style family shows — NBC in general seemed to fall out of love with half-hours that seemed too upscale or critic-friendly. (This is why there’s a Coach reboot on deck at the network.) It’s unclear if today’s pickups will mean a return to the age of shows such as The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks, but it does seem to indicate that the Peacock hasn’t totally given up on the idea of making at least a few comedies that might win Emmy awards.