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As expected, ABC is turning its Live in Front of a Studio Audience event into a recurring franchise.
ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke used her platform Monday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour to reveal plans for two more events — a holiday-themed offering as well as a third special, set to air in spring 2020. Names of the properties set to be adapted as follow-ups to the network’s Emmy-nominated Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons were not revealed. Sources say several titles are in consideration, with rights being a larger discussion.
Kimmel, appearing at TCA on Monday, confirmed that both specials will indeed be new takes on classic TV shows. He noted deals have not yet closed and was unable to discuss titles.
The news comes after the May 22 hourlong live comedy starring Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx, Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei managed to break through a cluttered landscape double ABC’s average viewership. The special, hosted and exec produced by Jimmy Kimmel and Lear, garnered 10.4 million same-day viewers and a 1.7 in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic.
The special also made Emmy history for Lear, who, with the nomination for outstanding variety special, became the oldest nominee ever at 96. (The honor arrived a mere 10 days before his 97th birthday, too.) The one-off also had warm reviews, and currently has a 93 percent rating among critics on RottenTomatoes.com. The Hollywood Reporter chief TV critic Daniel Fienberg called it a “mixed bag, but definitely an experiment worth trying again.”
Burke had been open about her interest in turning the live event into an annual special, telling THR‘s TV’s Top 5 in an exclusive interview that she would be open to doing as many of these as Kimmel and Lear have the “energy and wherewithal to pull off.” She singled out multiple ideas, including more from Lear’s impressive library — like Maude and Good Times — and programs from James L. Brooks or even The Golden Girls. “The list is long,” she said. “This could be a very deep well for us.”
ABC’s All in the Family/The Jeffersons helped usher in a new wave of live events after dwindling returns (and poor reviews) for recent musicals, including Fox’s Rent. NBC scrapped its planned live staging of Hair and has not announced a title to re-enter the space under new entertainment presidents George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy. (Their predecessor, Bob Greenblatt — now at WarnerMedia — ushered in the live musical wave at NBC.) In addition to classic sitcoms, A&E has found success with Live PD — which has also inspired a wave of knockoffs (like Fox’s First Responders Live, from super-producer Dick Wolf).
ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience was produced by Lear and his Act III producing partner Brent Miller, Kimmel, Gary Sanchez Productions’ Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and Justin Theroux. Sony, where Lear’s company is under an overall deal, is the studio behind the project, which was years in the making.
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