Tina Fey, Ellie Kemper Comedy Gets Series Order at NBC

Fey and Robert Carlock will write and EP the Kemper vehicle, about a woman who escapes from a doomsday cult and starts life over in New York City.
Getty Images
From left: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock and Ellie Kemper

Tina Fey is back in business at NBC.

The 30 Rock creator, along with her producing partner Robert Carlock, has been granted a 13-episode straight-to-series order for a comedy starring The Office’s Ellie Kemper. The single-camera effort, which is set to debut in the fall of 2014, will center on a woman (Kemper) who escapes from a doomsday cult and starts life over in New York City.

“We have been lucky enough to work at NBC for our entire careers (except when Robert worked at The Dana Carvey Show, now available on DVD) and we thank Bob [Greenblatt] and Jen [Salke] for their continued support,” Fey and Carlock said in a joint statement Thursday.

The half-hour series is being produced by Little Stranger and Universal Television, where Fey is under a rich, four-year overall deal. Fey and Carlock, who co-wrote the tightly guarded spec script for which the offer was made, will write, executive produce and co-run the series. 3 Arts’ David Miner, Fey’s longtime manager, will join the pair as an executive producer.

PHOTOS: Exclusive Portraits of Tina Fey and More Emmy Icons

“Tina and Robert, who cemented their partnership on 30 Rock, have created a new signature comedy for us that is audacious, emotional, and clever,” said Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, adding: “While tapping into very relatable themes, there isn’t anything like this anywhere else on television. NBC has been their home for many years and we’re so happy that they’ve found another way to push the comedy envelope for us.”

Added Salke, president of NBC Entertainment: “Original voices like Tina and Robert don’t come along very often and we wanted them back on the air as soon as possible. And to have them working with Ellie Kemper — who we watched grow up on The Office from supporting player to leading actress — puts the whole package together. We feel fortunate to be in business with this entire creative team on something so funny, unique, and attention-getting.”

The news caps off a particularly strong couple of months for Fey, who recently won an Emmy for co-writing the 30 Rock finale and, weeks later, was tapped to return as co-host of the Golden Globes. The eight-time Emmy winner and Saturday Night Live vet has been active as a producer this season, having garnered a series commitment for a women’s-college-themed comedy at Fox after a multinetwork bidding war broke out. Additionally, she and Carlock are reteaming with 30 Rock writer-producer Colleen McGuinness for a workplace comedy in which a woman reconnects with her estranged father and finds a new home and family on Fire Island. The latter is set up at NBC.

The move marks a reunion for Kemper, too, who spent several seasons at NBC as a co-star on the Greg Daniels comedy The Office. Her profile rose still more thanks to her comedic turn in breakout hit Bridesmaids, which generated nearly $170 million at the domestic box office when it bowed in 2011. Since The Office wrapped, Kemper has found herself at the top of casting wish lists.

For his part, Carlock served as an executive producer on 30 Rock for all seven seasons, picking up three Emmys in the process. Prior to the Fey half-hour, he was a writer on SNL and Friends, among other series.

While both noteworthy and significant, the straight-to-series strategy is becoming an increasingly popular way for broadcast networks to secure big projects as competition for original scripted series intensifies. In addition to Fey and Carlock's college comedy, Fox is moving forward with both fantastical drama Hieroglyph and Batman prequel Gotham as series. CBS recently announced that it, too, would bypass the pilot stage with a 13-episode order for Vince Gilligan's cop drama Battle Creek, which House's David Shore is attached to run. 

Fey is repped by WME, 3 Arts and Ziffren Brittenham; Carlock is repped by WME; Kemper is repped by WME and Mosaic.

E-mail: Lacey.Rose@THR.com
Twitter: @LaceyVRose