In the decade since Friends went dark, NBC hasn’t had another major success in the comedy department. The Office did well in the Steve Carell years, and 30 Rock and My Name Is Earl had decent viewerships, but now the network’s two longest-running comedies are Parks and Recreation and Community, both of which are critically beloved yet always under the threat of cancellation. So the network’s trying something new with NBC Comedy Playground, a nationwide initiative looking to find and grow new comedy talent. And no, it’s not going to be a reality show. (So far as we know.)
“In our quest to break new comedy at the network in addition to our team doing great work, I felt it was time to push forward a marriage between what’s happening on the Internet and the network,” NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke said at NBCU Press Day. “Funny people: send your stuff in — and you will get to see your show on a network, and potentially reach a lot of people.”
The fresh-faced comedy writers will be selected by NBC’s “Advisory Board,” composed of Amy Poehler, Adam McKay, Aziz Ansari, Seth Meyers, Jason Bateman, Mindy Kaling, Adam Scott, Mike Schur, Maya Rudolph, Craig Robinson, Sean Hayes, Eva Longoria, Robert Carlock (30 Rock), Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights), Josh Lieb (The Daily Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon), Todd Milliner (Hot in Cleveland), Will Packer (Ride Along), and Mike Shoemaker (SNL, Late Night With Seth Meyers).
Part of the Comedy Playground’s purpose is to tap voices originating “beyond the traditional talent labs of film schools and NY/LA comedy clubs” so as to “enrich the traditional television development model.” From May 1 until June 30, participants can submit ideas for digital and network comedies, accompanied by one or two videos of earlier work and a two- to five-minute verbal pitch video. “Up to 10 finalists will be chosen by the NBC Selection Panel, and NBC will provide funding for each finalist to produce a full pilot presentation based on his/her original pitch,” reads a press release. “Two winners will be selected by the all-star comedy Advisory Board, in consultation with NBC. Each of the winners will have their show broadcast on NBC.” And one finalist will get a digital series. A chart on the Comedy Playground website explains it succinctly enough:
The shows will air in the summer of 2015. You’ve got a month or two to convince that friend who’s always talking about her big TV show idea to send something in.