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Couple’s Projects Land in Same Slot

Jul 31, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Writers Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa had a terrific development season.

Longtime writers on the CBS comedy “King of Queens,” the married couple wrote two pilots this season, and hit the jackpot when both were picked up by the networks.

ABC picked up their single-camera project “Big Day,” which for its first season will profile the goings-on during a young bride’s wedding day.

Fox also picked up Mr. Goldsmith and Ms. Yuspa’s other pilot, `”Til Death,” which stars Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher as a jaded married couple who are jolted by their new next-door neighbors, deliriously happy newlyweds.

While the shows explore some similar themes, they have something else in common: the same Thursday 8 p.m. (ET) time slot. TelevisionWeek Senior Reporter Christopher Lisotta spoke with Mr. Goldsmith and Ms. Yuspa last Monday at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour about their shows, the state of TV comedy and how they are going to manage their busy schedules.

TelevisionWeek: How did you pair the two couples as you came up with the concept for `”Til Death?”

Josh Goldsmith: We came to the old couple first. Cathy told the story about her parents, and her mother walking in from a business trip and saying, “I missed you” to her father, and her father saying, “That’s ridiculous.”

We started thinking about a show, if “Mad About You” was the young marriage-the “How cute is it the way you brush your teeth” kind of show, is there a flip side to that? And is there a show about old marriage?

t really explores what’s that about, and how marriage lasts this long. There have been shows about bickering couples forever, that’s true. But we really wanted to get to the heart of the matter in terms of what keeps people together this long.

The young couple came about, rounding out the cast, and we felt what better way to explore the old marriage but to put the exact opposite couple right next door?

TVWeek: There are some single-camera elements in the pilot for `”Til Death,” although it is a multicamera piece. Did you come up with the idea of a hybrid comedy, or was that a note from the network?

Cathy Yuspa: We’re doing it ultimately as a multicamera show, not really a hybrid. Inevitably in development these days, you have to say is it a single-camera or a multicamera?

Our take for this show is that this is especially about Brad Garrett’s character.

First of all, you wouldn’t not want to put him in front of an audience. And secondly, this is about a character who has “expert-itis.” It’s a dialogue-driven show.

There’s not a compelling reason to do it single-camera. It should be in front of an audience. It should be small, and in a house.

TVWeek: It’s a big deal for young showrunners to get one show on the air, let alone two. What was that process like? Is it a catastrophic success?

Mr. Goldsmith: Catastrophic is the right word. We wrote two pilots with the hope that one would get shot and the expectation that neither would get on the air, because it’s so hard to get anything on the air these days.

The fact that they both got picked up and scheduled against each other is a bizarre twist of fate. We’re just trying to roll with it and keep a sense of humor about it. It’s a challenge, for sure.

TVWeek: Are you concerned the sensibilities of the two shows could meld together?

Ms. Yuspa: That’s actually not so much of a concern because the tones of the shows are so different. `”Til Death” is really small, domestic arguing. “Big Day” is single-camera, it’s broader, it’s more of a farce. It’s really action-packed and plot-heavy.

TVWeek: For “Big Day,” because it is so tight and so plot-driven, it’s almost like writing real time, like “24.” In writing for comedy, is that a challenge?

Mr. Goldsmith: A “24” issue would be something we would be happy to have, considering it’s my favorite show on TV.

Ms. Yuspa: It’s very challenging to plot it out, but we’ve also worked in traditional multicamera shows for so long that it was a welcome challenge to think in a different way.

Mr. Goldsmith: Sometimes when you box yourself in, it opens your mind up because you’re forced to think in creative and interesting ways.

TVWeek: After you saw the schedule, did you go to either network and say “Can you help us out here?” What was your reaction when you saw them up against each other?

Mr. Goldsmith: “You’re … kidding me,” something like that.

Ms. Yuspa: It just became comedic at that point.

TVWeek: Everyone talks about this being a golden age of drama, and comedy not being where it should be. Is it hard to hear that when you are making comedies?

Mr. Goldsmith: It seems like it was just a function of several of the great comedies of the last decades going off the air almost simultaneously that has created a little bit of dead space on the air now.

Ms. Yuspa: And at the same time, dramas just got so good. It’s like going to the movies. We watch “Lost” religiously. We have a baby, and for us, that’s going out when we watch “Lost.” The comedies, certainly a lot of single-camera shows are trying to …

Mr. Goldsmith: … trying to capture that kind of magic.

TVWeek: Have you figured out what your schedule is going to be? Are you going to work on both?

Mr. Goldsmith: It’s a work in progress, but a lot of coffee will be involved.