The Watchman: Gina Rodriguez Explores the Dying Business in a Dying Business on ABC
Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
Not Dead Yet, about an obituary writer trying to sort out her life, premieres on ABC February 8. Gina Rodriguez plays the reporter. Broke and newly single, she goes back to the newspaper she’d departed years before. The only position she can land is writing obits.
The show is inspired by the book Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up, by Alexandra Potter. “I loved the title instantly,” said Casey Johnson, who created Not Dead Yet with David Windsor. “And I really fell in love with the main character.”
Windsor called the protagonist very relatable. “I really related to how she felt she was far behind and not living up to everyone’s expectations,” he said.
The show has a wrinkle that may call to mind Ghosts: Rodriguez’s Nell takes on a different obituary each episode, and is visited by the ghost of that person, which only she can see. “We purposely have not watched Ghosts,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Windsor both worked on This Is Us. That program was “a drama-heavy show with really good moments of comedy,” said Windsor. “We thought, maybe we could bring some of that dramatic element into this comedy we’re making.”
Johnson said the cast, which includes Hannah Simone as Sam, “can do the really hard funny, and can also do really heartfelt moments.”
Windsor noted an episode that sees Nell and Sam break down why Nell’s engagement fell through. “You don’t get big, emotional scenes like this in broadcast comedies all that often,” he said.
Corralling Critters To Yield Titters on Fox
Animal Control, a Joel McHale comedy, starts on Fox February 16. The series follows a group of Animal Control workers. McHale plays Frank, a former cop who tried to expose corruption on the job, and ended up
“He’s brilliant at dealing with animals,” executive producer Bob Fisher said. “Not so much other humans.”
McHale’s comedy credits include Community and The Great Indoors. Fisher called him “hilarious,” and said he brings “a lot of humanity” to the Frank role. “There’s a lot of feeling underneath the guy,” he said.
Animal Control is a workplace comedy. Fisher listed The Office, Parks and Recreation and Taxi as influences.
The animals the folks chase down include dogs and cats, of course, and some other species. Those include a python, cougar, weasel, and “some killer rabbits who got into some recreational drugs,” Fisher said. There’s also a bear in a hot tub and a cow in a fraternity house.
What stands out about Animal Control? A top-notch ensemble cast, Fisher said, including Vella Lovell and Ravi Patel. Lots of physical comedy. And the critters.
“Emotional stories involving animals,” Fisher added. ■▪️
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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.