The Watchman: Evan Shapiro Backs ‘Bartlett’

Evan Shapiro has hardly been laying low since NBCUniversal pulled the plug on his Seeso over-the-top comedy service. Shapiro, former digital executive vice president at NBCU, is behind streaming series Bartlett, which debuts on Vimeo on Demand and Amazon Prime Jan. 30.

Inspired by the life of ad executive Martin Edwards, the series is about a highly dysfunctional agency and an executive there looking to quit the biz and start a music career.

Shapiro said it targets those who may be going through a “quarter- or midlife crisis.”

“It’s about finding out what is really important to you, and concentrating on that,” he said.

Episodes of Bartlett can be acquired for 99 cents on Vimeo or Amazon, and it’s $4.99 for all six in the season.

Chrissy Mazzeo and Anthony Veneziale are in the Bartlett cast, and Lin-Manuel Miranda even turns up. “It’s a story a lot of people can relate to,” said Mazzeo, also a co-creator. “You come to a point in your life where you look back and realize you went down the road you didn’t intend to go down.”

Shapiro, the former president of IFC/SundanceTV, has come to terms with the demise of Seeso: “Are we thrilled it ended the way it did? Absolutely not. Are we thrilled by the work we did? Yes.”

He likened Bartlett to the offspring of Thirtysomething and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and said it’s a bit of counterprogramming in the peak TV era. “Everything is dark and post-apocalyptic,” he said. “This is not that.”

Back to the dark show theme, there’s a dramatic shift coming up for SEAL Team on CBS. In the Jan. 31 episode, fittingly titled “Getaway Day,” David Boreanaz’s Jason and the rest of his team face what he calls “a big hurry-up situation.” When another SEAL team is ambushed in Afghanistan, Jason’s crew is ordered to get their butts to Jalalabad ASAP.

The episode, No. 13 of the season, is an intriguing look at how deployments are dealt with, not only by military personnel, but by the families they leave behind. Boreanaz said he and the other producers were keen to push the SEAL Team players into the great unknown. “We wanted this to happen so it’s not a Mission of the Week show,” he said. “It’s a new world for these guys.”

The SEAL team on SEAL Team — including Max Thieriot’s Spenser, Jessica Paré’s Mandy and Neil Brown Jr.’s Ray — is a tight bunch. Boreanaz said their deployment makes them even tighter.

“It really brings the characters together,” he said. “Their bond is even more prevalent in episode 13.”

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.