ABC Round-Up: 'My Generation,' 'Better With You' and 'Happy Endings' - TCA Report
by Laura Prudom, posted Aug 1st 2010 11:59PM
ABC has a couple of break-out shows this season that could do for them this year what 'Modern Family' did for them in 2009. One of those potential hits is 'My Generation,' a unique docu-drama that follows the lives of nine high-school friends ten years after a documentary crew detailed their senior year. A lot has happened in the past ten years, and world events plus personal drama could make for fetile storytelling ground.
The Alphabet network is also hoping to capitalize on their winning family dynamics with two new comedies, 'Better With You' and 'Happy Endings,' and we'll have highlights from both those panels and 'Generation' after the jump. If nothing else, they all have very attractive casts!
'My Generation' was based on a Swedish half-hour mockumentary, which featured three guys in high school who were revisited by a camera crew fifteen years later. Executive producer Noah Hawley said that there were two things that they wanted to amend for the American version; using the documentary format in a different way, as an investigative documentary, and to put the show in the context of the wider world and show the sea change around the globe in the last 10 years. "We'll be pushing these characters further than they want to go, invading their privacy and seeing things that they don't want you to see," he explained.
The first season will supposedly take place over three months, April-June 2010, in order to tie the episodes into current events and the present day. The second season might jump forward a year to create new character mysteries. "By season three, we don't really expect to be telling high school stories anymore; we'll be watching these characters grow up," Hawley said.
On the challenges of the documentary style, Hawley said that they "fully embrace it. It introduces a lot of challenges that make the show more interesting and creatively fun for the writers and actors." He made the example of two characters who might be having an affair -- they'll be trying to hide the relationship from their significant others and also from the camera crew and audience at home, which will be unlike anything we've seen on TV before.
Since the show will be indicative of a whole generation, using a mash-up of news footage, music videos, scripted material and documentary clips, producers intend for it to be interactive on a number of levels, and also multi-platform. There will be exclusive web-clips, a character with a real and active Twitter account, "the thought process is about making a show that you can really interact with on all the hours of the week that the show's not on," Hawley reasoned.
'Better With You'
An increasing rarity in today's post-'Modern Family' era of comedy, 'Better With You' is a multi-camera sitcom with a laugh track, focusing on three couples in one family. They include older sister Maddie (Jennifer Finnigan) and her partner of nine years, Ben, (Josh Cook); younger sister Mia (JoAnna Garcia) and her boyfriend-just-turned-fiance of two months, Casey (Jake Lacy); and their parents, Vicky and Joel (Debra Jo Rupp and Kurt Fuller). The comedy promises to show "real, relatable stories" as well as a believable family dynamic, according to creator Shana Goldberg-Meehan.
Goldberg-Meehan was inspired to create the show by her own experience: "I'm an older sister, I was in an unmarried relationship for 13 years, which is something I don't think we've seen represented on TV before." She recalled the many people she'd meet who would ask why she hadn't gotten married if she was in a committed relationship for such a length of time, but apparently, Goldberg-Meehan's parents weren't married for the first 16 years of her life, "to me it's what's normal," she said.
"I just wanted to work with good people and a good story," Garcia said, when asked what appealed to her from the concept. "The idea of coming back to my comedy roots was really attractive, and working with a live audience makes you feel like you're actually engaging with people and getting that immediate reaction."
One of the most charming comedy previews of the TCA press tour was for 'Happy Endings' a more modern day take on the six friends motif. Elisha Cuthbert and Zachary Knighton star as a couple who break up on their wedding day, and the repercussions that split has for their group of friends, played by Damon Wayans Jr., Eliza Coupe, Adam Pally and Casey Wilson.
"I wanted to make a show that's more representative of a group of friends now," Creator David Caspe explained, noting that he didn't choose to include an interracial couple or a gay man in the group for any political reasons, merely that he based the show on his own group of friends and the diverse people that make it up. "But shows and movies in general seem to be less straight and white these days, I think."
Likewise, the sexuality and race of the characters will not be the driving force of the show, "we'll explore it when it's right to explore it, but it's not the whole point of the couple," Caspe said.
On whether the show will be more standalone or serialized, executive producer Jonathan Groff (not to be confused with the dreamy Broadway star of 'Glee' fame) said it would be a mixture of both. "You do want to have every episode stand alone," he conceded, "they'll want to change the air order for various reasons, so you want to make sure things aren't reliant on the episode before it. But it'll be a good mix of standalone [and serialized], mostly we'll be telling stories about friends in their late 20s when a couple of them are married and a few have different career trajectories."
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