Remember when NBC announced its new “grassroots” talent initiative NBC Playground last year in hopes to – in the words of the network – find talented comedy writers by “reaching beyond the traditional talent labs of film schools and NY/LA comedy clubs”? Well, NBC announced the round of finalists last week, and guess where they live? Take a look at the list of finalists below:
Jeff Galante (Los Angeles, CA) - teacher at The GroundlingsTyler Hall (Brooklyn, NY) - UCB writerMelissa Hunter (Los Angeles, CA) - iO and Above Average performerAvery Lee & Bobby Richards (Chicago, IL) - iO performersKassia Miller (New York, NY) - UCB, CollegeHumor performerDaniel Poliner (Brooklyn, NY) - award-winning filmmaker (Austin Film Festival, Sundance, New Orleans Film Festival, Filmfest New Haven)Jameel Saleem (Los Angeles, CA) - Manhattan Love Story writer; film/television actorAdriano Valentini & Aaron Colom (Los Angeles, CA) - SAG actor/writers/producers
Not only is every finalist from one of the major cities that NBC claimed it would avoid, but they’re also writers, performers, and filmmakers who already have their foot in the entertainment industry in one way or another. I don’t mean to knock the talent and hard work of these finalists – Melissa Hunter’s hit web series Adult Wednesday Addams is a particular standout – but this group includes performers and teachers from UCB, iO, The Groundlings, CollegeHumor, and Above Average, SAG-AFTRA members, writers with major network TV credits, and even finalists of similar contests (filmmaker Adriano Valentini was a finalist on HBO’s Project Greenlight in December). Apparently NBC’s idea of including comedy concepts from “across the country” means sticking with established writers/performers from the country’s three biggest comedy hubs while overlooking aspiring TV show creators from the 47 other states who would’ve benefitted most from a “grassroots” talent initiative. Better luck next time, rest of America.