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The Welcome Return of NewsRadio’s Creator


 

The way some people react when they hear of a new TV project from a brilliant drama creator is the way I reacted when I heard that Paul Simms, the creator of NewsRadio, is doing a new pilot for NBC. I was all, ZOMG, Paul Simms! Well, I didn’t write “ZOMG.” But I thought it.

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Except for a stint as a consultant on Flight of the Conchords, plus his great work on the NewsRadio DVDs (he actually got Sony to delay their planned bare-bones release so he could record commentaries), he hasn’t been heard from much of late. But now he’s back, and while he’s done many unsold pilots — the development of one of them, which he was working on during the final season of NewsRadio, is chronicled in David Wild’s book The Showrunners — this one has a better chance of becoming a series. Why? Because it’s got a star attatched, and it’s got a producing credit for the man NBC fears most:

Matthew Broderick is coming to series television.

The actor, who had been courted by TV networks for years to headline a show, is attached to star in NBC’s multicamera comedy pilot “Beach Lane,” which was given the green light Monday…

“Beach Lane,” from UMS, Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video and writer Paul Simms (“NewsRadio”), stars Broderick as a celebrity author hired by an irresponsible millionaire heir to run his struggling small-town newspaper in the Hamptons.

Broderick was approached to do the project months ago but would only commit after reading the final script.

Todd VanDerWerff was, I think, the first to point out that the premise of this show is similar to Simms’s plan for the never-produced sixth season of NewsRadio. If the show had been picked up for another season, he was planning to retool the burned-out show by moving the whole thing to New Hampshire. This is sort of a New York version of that, but with a newspaper replacing a radio station. And of course “irresponsible millionaire heir” means “who can we get to play Jimmy James, again, who won’t look bad compared with the memory of Stephen Root?”

Anyway, you never can predict anything in advance, but Broderick is about as good a fit for the live-audience sitcom format as anyone (which is why people have been after him to do one for so long) and the world needs more of Paul Simms’s weird humour and good-natured mean-spiritedness.

While I’m on the subject of Simms, here’s a link to the famous interview he did toward the end of NewsRadio’s third season, when he thought (mistakenly as it turned out) that the show was about to be canceled and therefore he could say anything he wanted. This was the inspiration for an episode where Dave gives a magazine interview where he insults everyone in the office.

And though I’ve posted it before, here again is Simms (he’s the voice reading off the question at the beginning) talking about the traditional sitcom format:

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The Welcome Return of NewsRadio’s Creator

  1. Good news. Broderick is a pretty underappreciated actor.

  2. Holy crap, that interview was one of the most bitter things I've ever read…yikes! That said, NewsRadio is one of the most underappreciated ensemble comedies of all time, and Maura Tierney one of the most underrated comic actresses.

  3. Have seen some of Simms' unsold pilots and they were real stinkers. Let's hope this one breaks the curse.

  4. "I don't think that qualifies as cracking, does it?" Man, Phil was great….

  5. Saw a test screening of the Broderick pilot (Beach Lane) last week – man, was it ugly. Not a single laugh, and many cringes. I'm not surprised that NBC passed on this one.

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