'Family Album' Writer-Producers Ink Overall Deal at 20th TV

Joe Wiseman, left, and Joe Port

The pair will join Fox comedy "New Girl" and develop other projects for the studio.

Joe Port and Joe Wiseman, writer-producers on Fox's Family Album pilot, have signed an overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television.

As the men await the fate of Album, which has midseason potential, they have joined the staff of Fox's Zooey Deschanel comedy, New Girl, as co-executive producers. In addition to prepping the former and pitching in on the latter, the two-year pact calls for them to develop new comedies for the studio. 

Their pact was born out of a blind script deal that they had inked at 20th TV, which resulted in Album. The pilot remains locked in battle with Little in Common for a coveted midseason spot in Fox's spring comedy block. Despite positive buzz during pilot season, 20th TV chairman Gary Newman suggests that the Mike O'Malley-Rachael Harris comedy was held because the network wanted to have a better handle on where the series was headed.

"The pilot was so specific with the family on vacation that they want to get a sense of what it would be like when it's a more regular episode," Newman told THR, before adding that an additional test episode is being discussed now. Port and Wiseman say they haven't yet written a second episode, but "recognize that the pilot was unconventional" and have "a million more stories to tell" about the family. 

As Newman sees it, signing them to a script deal first was an ideal way of getting to know them and their work. He added that he and co-chairman Dana Walden were impressed by what they saw. "They had inspiration, a strong point of view and a strong idea," he said of the partners he affably dubs "the Joes." "They took notes and rejected notes that didn’t work for them. So they pushed back a little bit, but they were also amenable to hearing the interests of the network and the studio."

Wiseman and Port are equally enthusiastic about the new partnership, with both telling THR that 20th feels like the right fit. "They’ve been very supportive with our vision," Port said, before Wiseman added, "They’re obviously doing something right over there right now with Modern Family and Glee. They really support the vision of the writers and really respect creative people."

The pact is not the first overall deal for Port and Wiseman, both repped by UTA. The pair, who share writing credits on Just Shoot Me and The Office, had signed one at NBC studio in 2007. It was struck as their It Crowd pilot, based on the British format, was garnering buzz at its sister network, NBC. Other Wiseman-Port pilots include ABC's Who Gets the Parents and 5 Year Plan

To hear Newman tell it, the fact that they've not yet had their own breakout series makes the timing particularly advantageous. "It’s a perfect time to get on board with a couple of guys like that," he says. "They’re very hungry, they’re very ambitious, and they’re also very happy to pitch in and staff." 

Still better, the pair offers an aspirational and optimistic tone at a time when networks have an appetite for blue skies fare. "This isn't a time for snarky, cynical sitcoms, although I'm sure that like anything else it will come back some day," said Newman. "Right now people want comedy that they feel good watching, and that fits very well with what the Joes are good at."

Email: Lacey.Rose@Thr.com
Twitter: @LaceyVRose

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