'Black-ish' Prequel in the Works at ABC

Kelsey McNeal/ABC

ABC is hoping there's a third show in the Black-ish franchise.

The network is in early development for a possible Black-ish prequel revolving around a young version of Emmy winner Tracee Ellis Ross' Rainbow. The idea will be filmed in March as an episode of the flagship comedy. Casting has yet to begin and deals with writers are still being finalized. 

The project is in its early stages and, at least right now, it remains unclear if it's going to be a backdoor pilot or spinoff pilot. Should the casting and episode come in well, ABC would then consider its options moving forward. An airdate for the episode has not yet been determined.

This could be the second spinoff to stem from the Emmy-nominated comedy created by Kenya Barris. In 2017, ABC reteamed with Barris for Grown-ish — a spinoff revolving around star Yara Shahidi as her character, Zoey, went off to college. The pilot skewed too young for ABC and was ultimately picked up to series at the Disney-owned broadcaster's younger-skewing cable network Freeform, where it has become a breakout hit.

The potential Black-ish offshoot comes two years after CBS successfully launched Young Sheldon, a Big Bang Theory prequel series revolving around Emmy winner Jim Parsons' Sheldon Cooper. That comedy has become a breakout for CBS and is considered likely to take over the flagship's perch in the all-important Thursdays at 8 p.m. slot next season after the Chuck Lorre comedy wraps its run in May.

The new idea arrives after Barris last year formally exited his overall deal with Black-ish producers ABC Studios, with whom he had developed a strained relationship. Barris — who negotiated an early exit from the pact, which had three years remaining on it — signed an eight-figure, three-year deal with Netflix.

ABC, like other networks and streamers, is increasingly looking to spinoffs and other proven intellectual property as a way to cut through a scripted landscape featuring nearly 500 originals. (Spinoffs and reboots are cheaper to market and come with a built-in audience.) ABC's scripted roster currently includes Grey's Anatomy and its spinoff Station 19, and The Goldbergs and its offshoot Schooled, while other broadcasters with franchises include NBC's Chicago and Law & Order series, The CW's Arrow-verse and  CBS' NCIS and Big Bang Theory.

This pilot season, The CW is looking to build out the Arrow-verse, Riverdale and Jane the Virgin franchises with the pilots Batwoman, Katy Keene and Jane the Novela, respectively, while NBC went straight to series with a Law & Order spinoff, Hate Crimes, from executive producer Dick Wolf.

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