'Baby Daddy' Creator Opens Up About the Bizarre Path to 100 Episodes (Guest Column)

The Freeform comedy celebrates the rare milestone Monday as showrunner Dan Berendsen looks back on not one, but two unique moments that helped him get there.
Courtesy of Freeform/Ron Tom

As Freeform's Baby Daddy prepares to celebrate the rare landmark that is its 100th episode on Monday, series creator Dan Berendsen looks back on the unorthodox path that helped him get to the milestone. While the TV development process tends to focus on a pitch, script sale, pilot order and then either a call that it's moving to series or a dreaded pass, it's rare that a years-old script can get the call to go forward. But that's what happened for Berendsen. Read on for more of his unique path to the milestone episode, which also happens to be its series finale.

One hundred episodes. It’s still the peak we all strive to reach in television. Happily, I’ll finally be cresting that summit when my show Baby Daddy hits that magical number on May 22. As we all know, doing something once in this town makes you an expert, so I’m constantly asked for advice about getting a show on the air, etc. Well, to be honest my "secret” — if you want to call it that — is to toss it on a shelf and let it sit there gathering dust for a few years. It’s oddly happened time and time again in my career.

My first sale as a writer came when my then-partner and I submitted sketches to a comedy show. Yes, we were naïve enough to just mail them in unsolicited. Well, six months later we got a call asking if we could start that afternoon. It seems our submission had gotten put onto a shelf and was then “discovered” by a panicked castmember when everything else that week had crashed and burned. They only called because it was being filmed that Friday and someone realized they didn’t own it. Hello, first staff job … even if it did only last two weeks (us and the show).

And that pretty much set the tone for the next 20 years of my career. Once upon a time I was hired to do a page-one for a movie of the week called The Nine Lives of Chloe King for what was then ABC Family. By the time I finished my rewrite, I was told they there were out of the MOW business. OK — moving on. But fast forward almost four years and I get a call from an executive who says she just found Chloe on a shelf and loved it. Thanks. But they aren’t making MOWs anymore. Yeah, I’d kind of heard that. But, how would I like to do it as a series? Ah … sure. Can you start next week?

Well, we shot not only a pilot, but a full season of Chloe starring the amazing Skyler Samuels — but we were on the bubble for a season two. Then I got that dreaded call from the network — “we’re not going to pick up your show … but we are picking up Baby Daddy!” I said something snarky and unprintable about how great for whoever wrote Baby Daddy — but as I was about to hang up I could hear another executive screaming, “He doesn’t know we call it Baby Daddy.” Seems they were cancelling my show but picking up to pilot a half-hour sitcom I’d written for them a year before Chloe. It had just been sitting on a shelf gathering dust.

Well, 100 episodes later, here I am. While by no means an expert, I can impart a few words of wisdom: Don’t panic at the first pass. Never include pop culture references. And always send a hard copy — you never know what people will pick up to read when they’re bored.

The 100th episode of Baby Daddy airs May 22 on Freeform. 

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