Al Fresco ‘Abby’s Starts on NBC

Comedy Abby’s starts March 28 on NBC, and is noteworthy because the show is shot outside. NBC is on board for ten episodes of the multi-cam comedy, which has Natalie Morales as an ex-Marine who opens a bar in her San Diego backyard.

The show shoots on the Universal lot in Los Angeles, behind what was Edie’s house on Desperate Housewives. An outdoor shoot has its issues, notes the NY Times, whether it’s airplanes zooming above, raccoons helping themselves to craft services, or rain and wind. The set can accommodate a studio audience of around 100.

NBC said it is the first time a multi-cam comedy has been shot outside in front of a live studio audience.

Josh Malmuth, Michael Schur and David Miner are executive producers and Pamela Fryman directed the Abby’s pilot.

Said NBC, “This unlicensed, makeshift establishment in Abby’s backyard is the perfect gathering place for locals to find camaraderie and sanctuary. To maintain the perfect bar ecosystem, all patrons must abide by a specific set of rules. This includes no cell phones (not even to look something up), understanding that earning a seat at the bar takes time to rise through the hierarchy and knowing that losing a challenge may have some unpleasant and unpalatable drink-related repercussions.”

The cast also includes Nelson Franklin as Abby’s landlord, Leonard Ouzts as her bouncer, Jessica Chaffin as a harried neighbor, Kimia Behpoornia as bar manager and Neil Flynn as a regular customer.

We spoke with comedian Ouzts at TCA in January about the show. He said the script hit him right away. “This is good, this is dope,” he said after an initial read.

The scripts deftly mix in social issues with “well-written jokes,” according to Ouzts. “They put us in a position to look good,” he said.

Ouzts’ favorite bar?

Studio 735 in Harlem, where he lived before shifting to Los Angeles. (Yelp tells me Studio 735 has closed.) “It was right across the street,” he said. “We’d walk across, get something to drink, get wings, smoke some hookah, and just chill out.”

The idea for the show came from a New Orleans bar called Bacchanal, said the NY Times, with a courtyard.

Rolling Stone calls Abby’s “charming.”

The LA Times notes a “Cheers vibe with a dash more flavor.”

“As with all new multi-camera sitcoms, you can practically taste the canned laughter at first; and the fact that it is happening in the open air makes the laughter sound even more artificial, which has the strange effect of making the show seem less funny than it is,” said the LA Times. “This, too, will pass, or at least you will no longer notice it. I am telling you to stick around.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.