Gail Berman Talks Returning to Fox With 'Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life'

The team behind the ambitious single-camera comedy also tackled 'Ferris Bueller' and 'Hangover' comparisons at TCA.
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Gail Berman is back at Fox.

The former head of entertainment returns after more than a decade as an executive producer on the network's rookie single-camera comedy Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life.

Berman, now head of The Jackal Group, has exec produced several series since she left her perch at Fox, but the freshman series marks one of her first efforts at her old network.

"Obviously knowing the people there has been enormously helpful to me, but I think you still have to prove yourself with the material," Berman told reporters Friday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "Maybe once they'll give me a break, but I don’t think too many times you can go to that well. So I think ultimately whatever it is that I'm doing and the company is doing has to rise to the occasion."

The series centers on Barrett (Jack Cutmore-Scott), a charismatic twenty-something simply trying to survive the standard everyday struggles of adulthood — a towed car, a lost iPhone — with the help of his roommates (Charlie Saxton and James Earl), his friend (or more than?) Kelly (Meagan Rath) and his older brother (Justin Bartha) and sister-in-law (Liza Lapira).

Berman said she was particularly excited to introduce viewers to a largely unknown cast. Before becoming the head of Fox, Berman served as an executive producer on such series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which made household names out of Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz, respectively.

"We like to believe that television can still create its own stars. It's something I've always believed in," said Berman. "This cast is really, really holding up to that goal. It's wonderful to see that happen."

Bartha, arguably the most well-known castmember thanks to his turn in The Hangover films, praised Berman as well as the series' ambitious premise. "Under Gail's leadership, who is, let's be honest, one of the most amazing women in the history of the business ... it just seemed like a fun, cinematic chance for comedy on TV," said Bartha. "I also think it's a really interesting time for comedy on networks. Anything can happen. It’s the time to take a swing for the fences and this show, as it goes along, it gets more and more impressive and it feels like you're watching, in a sense, a TV version of The Hangover, where it is a comedic adventure piece and that I was super excited about because I hadn’t seen that on television."

Creator Jay Lacopo confirmed that The Hangover as well as Ferris Bueller's Day Off served as his two major influences for the series. The latter is an obvious choice, considering how often Cooper talks directly to the camera in every episode. Coincidentally, or not, Ferris Bueller star Alan Ruck guest-stars in the first season as Cooper's dad.

"I saw a scene with Jack talking to Alan, and then he finished the scene and turned to the camera, and it was such a Ferris Bueller moment," recalled Lapira. "I was like everyone who saw that movie and loved that movie — their heads are going to explode."

Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.