Disney, Showtime Vets Aim to Take TV Comedy Back to the Future

Billy Riback, and Steve Rubin-Getty-H 2019
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

A pair of industry veterans are launching a production company aimed at providing family-friendly, escapist comedy to TV viewers.

Former Home Improvement and Suite Life of Zack and Cody writer-producer Billy Riback and producer and author Steve Rubin (Showtime's Bleacher Bums, Hallmark's Silent Night) have founded Anagram Flims (yes, "Flims"). The duo has partnered with the estate of producer Jack Chertok (The Lone Ranger, My Favorite Martian) to develop a remake of Chertok's 1960s sitcom My Living Doll titled My Perfect Man.

Riback and Rubin are also shopping several other projects, including To Live and Dye in L.A., about father-and-son hairstylists, and Brain Freeze, about a Rat Pack-era Las Vegas bookie who's accidentally frozen in 1960 and thawed out in the present.

My Living Doll ran for one season in 1964-65 but acquired cult status thanks in part to the fact that it starred Julie Newmar, playing a top-secret military robot that an Air Force psychologist (Bob Cummings) had to teach to be "human." Riback and Rubin plan to flip the genders of the two leads, with My Perfect Man's lead as a Korean-American woman frustrated with the men in her life who builds what she hopes is the exact right guy.

"One of the things we want to do is really emphasize the funniness," Rubin told The Hollywood Reporter of Anagram's mission. "I think a lot of comedy shows, we just don't think they're funny enough."

Rubin also said he and Riback are hoping to make shows that "grandma on the couch, parents and kids" can all watch together.

"A lot of the audience is not getting a chance to see anything because it's too raunchy," he said. "The typical family audience, what do you tune into that's fun and light and doesn't have anything to do with anything controversial? Billy and I grew up in the '60s and there were legendary sitcoms and there were gimmick sitcoms, and they were all family-friendly. Anything we get involved with, we want it to be fun and light and not piss off anybody."

Rubin said he and Riback are taking their projects out, working with a manager rather than an agent given the current standoff between the Writers Guild of America and talent agencies. 

"We're just coming into the marketplace as everyone is changing the ways they do business," said Rubin. "We think there may be an opportunity there."