NBC Orders Improv Series

Jan 17, 2007  •  Post A Comment

NBC has ordered six episodes of an improvisational comedy format from FremantleMedia North America called “Thank God You’re Here.”

The hour-long series goes into production immediately and NBC plans to premiere the program by the end of the season. NBC announced the series at the Television Critics Association’s semiannual press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

NBC also ordered renewals for “Heroes,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “The Office.” The network also ordered seven more episodes of the game show “Identity” for the summer.

In “Thank God,” celebrity contestants are given a costume and a prop, and enter a set where a scene is already in progress. The room can be anything from an operating room to an Egyptian tomb to an executive boardroom, and it is pre-stocked with improv comics following a rough story outline. The celebrity is greeted with the words “Thank God you’re here” and must improvise through the scene.

David Alan Grier (“In Living Color”) hosts and Dave Foley (“News Radio”) judges the performers. The pilot featured Jennifer Coolidge (“American Pie”), Bryan Cranston (“Malcolm in the Middle”), Joel McHale (“The Soup”) and Wayne Knight (“Seinfeld”).

The format was launched in Australia in 2004, and quickly spread to 10 international territories. Though improv comedy has struggled to find a wide audience in on U.S. television, Fremantle North America Chief Creative Officer Eugene Young is confident “Thank God” is “a recipe for laughter.”

“There’s nothing else like it on television,” Mr. Young said. “It’s the ultimate challenge for anybody, let alone a celebrity. The studio audience creates such energy behind the actor because they know they’re winging it. Everybody wants to see if they’re going to dig themselves further into a hole or climb out of it.”

The show will join other NBC unscripted fare such as “Deal or No Deal” and “The Biggest Loser,” which have helped bolster the channel. If the show joins NBC’s airwaves by the end of the season, it could help ward off season-to-date ratings erosion due to another Fremantle broadcast reality show-Fox’s “American Idol.”

Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of FremantleMedia North America, serves as executive producer, along with Fax Bahr and Adam Small.

(Editor: Liff)