By Nellie Andreeva
January 12, 2021
NBC has given a series order to American Auto, from Spitzer and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, starring Ana Gasteyer, Jon Barinholtz. Also picked up to series is NBC’s comedy pilot Grand Crew, from the Brooklyn Nine-Nine duo of writer-producer Phil Augusta Jackson and co-creator/executive producer Dan Goor, whose cast includes Echo Kellum and Nicole Byer.
Getting a straight-to-series order is high-concept drama La Brea, from creator David Applebaum and Keshet Studios, with Natalie Zea, Zyra Gorecki and Chiké Okonkwo starring. All three series are produced by Universal Television.
These are the first new NBC series orders since Susan Rovner joined NBCUniversal as Chairman of entertainment content across the company’s television portfolio, which includes NBC, six cable networks and Peacock. The pickups were announced by Lisa Katz, NBC’s President of Scripted Content and a member of Rovner’s team.
“Our driving force has always been to seek out talented storytellers who have a strong point of view,” Katz said. “While these shows are very different thematically, what they have in common is a unique voice, excellent world building, and compelling storytelling. We can’t wait to share them with TV fans everywhere.”
With the pickup of American Auto, Kaplan becomes the first producer with at least one scripted series airing or ordered on each the five broadcast networks in the same season. He has A Million Little Things, American Housewife and the upcoming Women of the Movement on ABC; The Neighborhood and The Unicorn on CBS; Story, originally produced for CBS All Access, just finished airing on the CW in an exclusive broadcast run. The series order also gives Kaplan nine current series on broadcast — AMLT, American Housewife, WOTM, The Neighborhood, The Unicorn, Housebroken and American Auto — as well as The Chi on Showtime and Delhi Crime on Netflix.
Spitzer and Kaplan originally teamed up and sold American Auto to NBC in 2013. The script did not go to pilot back then, and Spitzer went on to create Superstore, whose current sixth season will be its last. With Spitzer stepping down as Superstore showrunner in summer 2019 to focus on development under his Universal TV overall deal, he and Kaplan took a new stab at American Auto, which was redeveloped.
Written by Spitzer, American Auto is set at the headquarters of a major American automotive company in Detroit, where a floundering group of executives try to rediscover the company identity amidst a rapidly changing industry.
Ana Gasteyer, Jon Barinholtz, Harriet Dyer, Humphrey Ker, Michael B. Washington, Tye White and X Mayo star. Spitzer executive produces via his Spitzer Holding Company with Kapital’s Kaplan and Dana Honor. Jeff Blitz executive produced and directed the pilot.
Written by Jackson with Goor supervising, Grand Crew revolves around a group of Black friends who unpack the ups and downs of life and love at a wine bar.
Echo Kellum, Justin Cunningham, Carl Tart, Aaron Jennings and Nicole Byer star. Jackson and Good executive produce the series. Mo Marable directed and co-executive produced the pilot.
NBC completed all five 2020 pilots it committed to filming back in June: single-camera comedies American Auto and Grand Crew; multi-cam Night School, which did not go forward; and dramas Ordinary Joe and Langdon, the latter based on Dan Brown’s novel The Lost Symbol. The two dramas are said to be in strong contention, with Ordinary Joe — whose script was a NBC brass favorite last spring — believed to be nearing a pickup.
Also in June, dramas La Brea and Debris were put on a straight-to-series path. Debris, which had shot considerable pilot footage in March, before the coronavirus-related production shutdown, was picked up to series the same month. For La Brea, which had filmed a few scenes pre-Covid, the network ordered multiple backup scripts for a total of six and extended the options on key cast members Natalie Zea, Zyra Gorecki and Chiké Okonkwo. The rest of the actors were released. Their roles now will be recast.
In La Brea, written by David Applebaum, when a massive sinkhole mysteriously opens in Los Angeles, it tears a family in half, separating mother and son from father and daughter. When part of the family find themselves in an unexplainable primeval world, alongside a disparate group of strangers, they must work to survive and uncover the mystery of where they are and if there is a way back home.
Applebaum executive produces with Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Peter Traugott, Rachel Kaplan and Ken Woodruff.
The pickups of La Brea, American Auto and Grand Crew had been pending for a while as NBC and Universal Television, part of Universal Studio Group, are redoing the casts’ deals due to the pandemic-related delays.