Making Room for `All of Us’

May 5, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Last year, UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff said the network’s goal was to be in business with A-list talent.
Put movie stars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith at the top of that list. The husband-and-wife team are two of the executive producers behind UPN’s sitcom pilot All of Us.
The family comedy focuses on the dynamic between Robert (Duane Martin), his fiancee (Elise Neal) and his soon-to-be ex-wife (LisaRaye). The three work to get along for the sake of Robert and his ex-wife’s 5-year-old son.
“There are so many blended families that I know of,” Ms. Pinkett-Smith said. “I’m part of a blended family. I have plenty of friends that are part of blended families, and I thought, wow, there’s really nothing on television to represent this lifestyle. I said [to] Will we should really think about putting a television show together.”
Television was nothing new for Ms. Pinkett-Smith, who spent two years on the NBC sitcom A Different World, and Mr. Smith, who headlined the NBC sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air for six years.
The Smiths then hooked up with veteran sitcom writer Betsy Borns, who has worked on two of the biggest sitcom hits in the past decade, ABC’s Roseanne and NBC’s Friends, and pitched the idea to the broadcast networks.
Kim Fleary, senior VP, comedy development, UPN, said they knew they wanted the show immediately after hearing the pitch. “The idea was so relatable and so prevalent,” she said. “It was unique in terms of being a different way of approaching this kind of domestic circumstance-and the auspices didn’t hurt. Betsy Borns is a writer I’ve wanted to be in business with for a long time. The Smiths were so passionate about the idea because it’s inspired by their lives. That’s always attractive to me as a developer.”
While many of the stories were drawn from their own lives, Ms. Pinkett-Smith said these characters are fictional. “It’s not really us,” Ms. Pinkett-Smith said. “You can’t even really explore the true dynamics of what our blended family goes through because of the [different] positions of the characters on the show.”
While the show is a traditional sitcom in format, being shot with multiple cameras in front of a live studio audience, it steers away from setup jokes with a quick punchline.
“All the humor comes from the characters,” Ms. Fleary said. “Even though they are dealing with what could be some very serious circumstances, the humor always supports what is really going on.”
Ms. Pinkett-Smith said All of Us also has more dramatic moments, because the goal was to depict realistic relationships and interactions between the characters. “We want to deal with real issues that blended families go through in real life,” she said.
While UPN executives wouldn’t say where All of Us could be slotted, the show, which features an African American cast, would fit right into UPN’s Monday night urban sitcom lineup. Or it could be paired with one of the network’s established comedies to help launch another night.
All of Us is produced by Overbrook Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television. Ms. Borns and James Lassiter also are executive producers.