ABC is developing a comedy about a Middle Eastern family with superpowers from Larry Wilmore and Bassem Youssef. The untitled series centers on the Sharif family, an ordinary Middle Eastern American family with two superhero parents at a time when it’s illegal to be a superhero, so they are forced to save the world in secret. The show will highlight some of the issues that immigrant families face when it comes to fitting into a society that at many times treats you like the enemy.
Wilmore and Youssef will serve as writers and executive producers on the single camera series. ABC Studios will produce. “To have ABC challenge the narrative and stereotypes that have long stuck to people in my region is something spectacular to say the least,” said Youssef. “To have only terrorist roles available for us one day, then get to play superheroes the next, is ground breaking. I am grateful to work with, Larry Wilmore, one of the most talented writers and producers in the market. SCH is unprecedented, culture-defining, and entertaining for the whole family.”
The sale of the project marks Wilmore’s first solo project under his overall deal with ABC Studios. He also serves as an executive producer on “Insecure” and “Black-ish.” Youssef is a writer and comedian who has made numerous appearances on “The Daily Show” as a commentator and also appeared on Wilmore’s former Comedy Central series, “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.”
“I’m beyond thrilled to have the chance to put a family like this on television,” Wilmore said. “Plus, I’ve always wanted to do a show about superheroes and to work with a real life superhero in Bassem is a double bonus.”
When Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show got canceled last year, many fans were understandably frustrated. Wilmore’s was one of only two programs in late night to feature a black host—and at the time, it was the only one with a female head writer. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that Wilmore’s head writer herself, Robin Thede, has moved on to host her own late-night show.
The Rundown with Robin Thede premiered Thursday night on BET, and although it’s got a few kinks to work out—as any new show does—its host has already honed a distinct comedic voice and spirit. And that sensibility gives her program must-watch potential, even in its first week. Thede’s series opened with a tone-setting sketch: Thede spotting an extremely attractive man . . . who is, unfortunately, wearing a Trump/Pence T-shirt. She then embarks on an ill-fated quest to win his attention—first by wearing a Make America Great Again hat, and eventually by getting a Confederate flag tattoo on her bicep. Then she spots his wedding ring and scolds him for wasting her time before turning to her tattoo artist and asking, “Can you turn that into a Kaepernick jersey or something?”
The Rundown is true to its name; it’s a beat-by-beat recap of the week’s news, as curated by Thede and her team. Naturally, their curation yields a different mix of stories from those chosen by the various Jimmies on network TV.In her premiere episode, Thede zoomed her way through several topics, including Eminem’s anti-Trump rap, Jemele Hills’s suspension from ESPN, and a fireman who was dismissed from his predominantly black fire station after he brought a watermelon with a pink bow on it as a gift.
“It’s no surprise that Trump came for Jemele,” Thede said as she wrapped up her opening monologue. “Remember how he attacked Ms. Texas when she criticized him for not calling out the white supremacists in Charlottesville? Of course you don’t, because he didn’t. Trump likes his targets like we like our Magic Johnson theaters: black and loud.” Thede’s show is undeniably guided by her outlook as a black woman, which enables and guides her to tackle topics other programs might ignore.
As the comedian recently told Variety, “I’m going to be able to give a perspective that’s definitely not happening simply because I am a black woman, but I don’t want people to watch just because of that. If that’s the reason you tune in, that’s great, but the reason you’ll stay is because of what I’m saying,” she says. “The jokes will be pointed. The jokes will be sharp.”
Take, for example, this moment during her opening monologue, in which Thede introduced a viral video of one man’s confrontation with local police in California: “Does anyone else feel like they’re watching a magic show happen when white people interact with the cops?” Thede asked. “Well, abra kadabra, here’s a trick you haven’t seen before—and don’t worry, he lives!” The twist? The subject of the video actually was not a white man at all; he was later identified as 22-year-old Yaroub Assad. “He’s brown!” Thede said incredulously. “This cop thought he was letting a white guy work through a temper tantrum, but he was actually proving a great point: cops aren’t afraid of brown people—just brown skin.”
The Rundown could easily shoot to the top of late night’s must-watch list. Its success could come down to how the show uses its digital platform, which will likely attract fans who might not think to turn on BET for their late-night viewing. With a weekly podcast already set to launch Friday, though, it seems Thede and her staff know the game they’re playing—though as of Monday morning, it’s surprisingly difficult to find clips of the show anywhere but BET’s own Web site, which could hinder the show’s growth.
Once the network expands The Rundown’s web presence, though, it seems only a matter of time before a clip from it goes viral—which will go a long way toward establishing this show as the must-watch it looks like it’s going to be.
According to Variety.com, former “The Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore is turning his focus back to writing and producing after his 2016 stint on Comedy Central.
Wilmore recently signed an overall deal with ABC Studios, marking his first major move since his late-night series was cancelled. Under his new multi-year pact, Wilmore will develop his own projects, plus supervise others and work with executives to target talent for the studio.
Wilmore recently helped Issa Rae created“Insecure” for HBO, which was recently renewed for a second season. A comedy veteran, Wilmore also created “The Bernie Mac Show” and “The P.J.’s.” He’s also an executive producer on ABC’s hit sitcom “Black-ish.”
“I’m excited beyond words to be back at ABC and look forward to this creative partnership,” Wilmore said. “Disney took a chance on me as a young writer years ago and so I’m thrilled to return to the Mouse House. I hope my room still looks the same.”
For years HBO has been criticized for its pattern of featuring shows spotlighting the stories of white women while ignoring the creative voices of women of color. While “Sex and the City,” “Girls” and “Veep” have been solid hits, they have also been blasted for sidelining ethnic characters. “Girls,” created by and starring Lena Dunham, has particularly come under fire for its focus on young white characters even though it is set in New York City.
Starting Oct. 9, the premium network will enter more diverse territory, courtesy of Issa Rae, a former YouTube sensation who is starring in and executive-producing “Insecure.”
The half-hour series explores the friendship between two African American women who deal with their sometimes stormy relationship while also grappling with conflicts inside and outside black culture. Much of the humor has a raw flavor, and does not hold back on sexually frank situations and dialogue.
Issa Rae is bringing her misadventures to HBO. Insecure, the YouTube star’s comedy pilot, has been picked up to series at the pay cabler. The half-hour comedy examines the friendship of two modern-day African-American women and their uncomfortable experiences and racy tribulations.
Rae stars as Issa Dee opposite Yvonne Orji (Love That Girl!), who will play Issa’s best friend, Molly. Although she is very successful professionally in the corporate world, Molly is not so successful in her love life.
Jay Ellis (The Game) also stars as Lawrence, Issa’s depressed and unemployed boyfriend who has been trying to get his act together for the past four years. Lisa Joyce (Boardwalk Empire) rounds out the ensemble as Frieda, Issa’s liberal and empathetic co-worker at an educational non-profit firm.
Prentice Penny (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) will serve as showrunner on the series, exec producing with Michael Rotenberg, Dave Becky and Jonathan Berry. Rae and Larry Wilmore co-created the project and the wrote the pilot together. She will co-executive produce, while he will serve as a consultant. Wilmore is now behind the desk on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show, which came after Insecure was put in development at HBO in 2013.
Melina Matsoukas directed the pilot. Rae is known for her award-winning web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which has helped her amass 200,000 subscribers and 20 million views on YouTube. She is repped by UTA, 3 Arts Entertainment and John V. Meigs Jr.
Insecure‘s series pickup comes as part of television’s continued efforts to increase diversity, which have proved successful for networks like Fox (Empire) and ABC (Black-ish).
Insecure joins HBO’s expanding comedy slate that includes Girls, Veep, Silicon Valley, Togetherness, Ballers, The Brink, Doll & Em, the upcoming final season of Getting On and the TV movie finale of Looking.
How do you write jokes for a TV comedy about race and culture when there are riots over how police treat black suspects, and a gunman just shot down nine people in a black church?
If you’re Robin Thede, head writer for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, you think carefully about where you focus the joke.
“The thing about tragedy, is that it causes people to react in a myriad of ways … [and] some of them are very hilarious,” Thede says, laughing. “You don’t make fun of the actual tragedy. You make fun of the ridiculous ways people react to it.”
Her example: The way some news outlets focused on the involvement of the gang Black Guerilla Family when rioting broke out in Baltimore last April.
“You’ve got people on the news saying ‘Black Guerilla Family’ 4,000 times because they get a kick out of saying ‘gorilla’ when connected to black people,” she says.
That frustration turned into a bit on The Nightly Show — a montage of Fox News anchors saying “Black Guerilla Family,” then Wilmore responding with a choice run of curse words.
“We see that and go, ‘Finally, this is the stuff we can talk about,'” Thede says. “This is the stuff that pisses us off when we’re watching at home, and now we have a voice.”
That voice first emerged in January, when Wilmore’s Nightly Show debuted in the timeslot originally held by Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report.
Wilmore made a bit of history then as the only black man hosting a major late night talk show.
And Thede also made history: She’s the first black woman to serve as head writer for such a show. But she’s quick to counter the notion that The Nightly Show is just a parody of Meet the Press centered on jokes about race.
“For us it’s race, it’s class, it’s gender, it’s disability, it’s anybody that’s an underdog,” she says. “Which to us, is anybody in the right situation. If you’re a white person in the wrong neighborhood, you’re an underdog.”
In the show’s offices in Manhattan, Thede turns her blend of outrage and can-you-believe-it humor into actual jokes. Writers and producers are plopped on couches in her office for a morning meeting about upcoming skits. The wall behind Thede’s desk is dominated by a huge dry-erase board with bits for upcoming shows written out.
There’s excitement in the room, because Morgan Freeman will be stopping by later to record an appearance on the show — one where Wilmore will play an Afro-wigged, platform shoe-wearing host of a ’70s TV show called Soul Daddy.
The Paley Center for Media hosted a star-studded event Thursday evening celebrating the 35th anniversary of BET’s launch, as well as the groundbreaking achievements of African-Americans in television over the years.
The guest list was basically a who’s who of black America. Everyone from Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, Larry Wilmore, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lee Daniels, Kerry Washington, Michael Strahan and Phylicia Rashad. Winfrey kicked off the night with an opening monologue, during which she expressed her gratitude for the evolution of African-Americans contributing to some of today’s most successful shows on television.
“When I was growing up there were so few people of color on television, but when there was one of us we would end up missing it because we would be calling everybody else saying, ‘it’s coming on right now. Turn on ‘Ed Sullivan.’ It’s coming on,’” she said. “So part of the power of tonight’s event will be to appreciate and to honor our history as we continue to be an interval part of the entertainment industry.”
“This has been a wonderful evening and an emotional evening for me watching the positive strides we’ve taken over the years. We’re not there yet, but we’re going to get there,” Tyson declared. “I have been especially moved by the moments that were a flashback for me… when I first appeared on the air with a natural and received barrels of negative letters that had to do with the fact that I was disgracing the role of the image of black women when I was in a position to glorify it.”
“Well, finally at last I am ecstatic to say that we as a race of people have come to recognize and accept the fact that our pride and glory is our hair… that doesn’t mean you can’t wear your hair the way you want to.”
Larry Wilmore debuted Comedy Central’s new Nightly Show on Monday, and the veteran writer, comedian and Daily Show correspondent brought a solid sampling for his first time at bat.
The series premiere attracted 963,000 viewers at 11:30 p.m. and a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Any disappointment over Wilmore not cracking 1 million viewers should be taken lightly. The premiere happened on the tail-end of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend, with a modest 1.2 million lead-in from The Daily Show. Comedy Central’s late-night block, like all of TV, also has been bringing in more and more viewers with time-shifting — and Wilmore stands to grow significantly after people sample throughout the week.
The first outing has been greeted warmly by critics, with The Hollywood Reporter‘s Tim Goodman writing, “As for first impressions, I liked it. Wilmore himself is a smart, funny performer who is no stranger to The Daily Show crowd. Most viewers to his show probably knew what to expect for the most part.”
“The Nightly Show” replaces “The Colbert Report,” whose host will succeed David Letterman at CBS in September.
Wilmore was the “senior black correspondent” for the “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and is a respected comedian, writer and producer who says that he is ready to mix it up on late night TV, according to blackamericaweb.com.
Comedy Central’s The Minority Report With Larry Wilmore has found a head writer.
Robin Thede has been tapped to lead Larry Wilmore‘s upcoming late-night show, which replaces The Colbert Report in January when Stephen Colbert segues to CBS’ Late Show.
Thede was most recently head writer on syndicated daytime talker The Queen Latifah Show and also wrote for Chris Rock when he hosted the 2014 BET Awards, as well as the NAACP Image Awards. She was previously a writer on BET’s satirical comedy Real Husbands of Hollywood,which starred Kevin Hart, Boris Kodjoe and Nick Cannon for the first two seasons.
A Second City and Improv Olympic alumna, Thede’s sketch/improv credits includeI n the Flow With Affion Crockett,Mike Epps‘ sketch comedy series Funny Bidness and Clunkers. She has appeared in BET’s Second Generation Wayans, Fox’s Goodwin Games, TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland, UPN’s All of Us and Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, in addition to the Marlon Wayans film A Haunted House.
The Minority Report,like the Daily Show and The Colbert Report, aims to provide a comedic look at news, current events and pop culture from different perspectives not typically seen on television.
The news comes three months after former The Daily Show showrunner Rory Albanese was tapped to head up the 11:30 p.m. show, reuniting him with Daily Show corespondent Wilmore. Jon Stewart also serves as an executive producer. Wilmore, a veteran producer in his own right, transitioned from his duty as executive producer/showrunner on ABC’s black-ish, which earned a full-season order this week, in September to focus on launching Minority Report.