NBC ‘Spoons’ with Second City TV

Director Traill prepping sketch comedy series

Second City TV has already lined up its first project at NBC, where it’s developing a sketch comedy from director/scribe Phil Traill.

Project tells varied stories of twenty- and thirtysomethings and their attitudes toward sex and relationships. Traill — who’s directing the upcoming Sandra Bullock feature “All About Steve” — helmed a similar project in the U.K., the BBC series “Spoons” (which aired domestically earlier this year on BBC America).

The Traill project reps the first major piece of development set up at the Peacock since Lowell Mate took over Second City’s revived TV operations in April (Daily Variety, March 26).

Mate said NBC had been tracking Traill’s career for some time and thought he could make a good match with Second City — and that the sketch project could easily be workshopped on one of Second City’s several stages across the country (and in Canada).

“When we sat with Phil, we realized that if we want to tackle a sketch show together, here’s a great way to do it where the process is systematic for us,” Mate said.

Traill flew to Second City’s Chicago home base and spent three days brainstorming ideas and characters with the comedy troupe’s mainstage actors. Annoyance Theater founder Mick Napier — who also directs Second City’s mainstage — directed the sessions, while Traill took notes and videotaped the whole process.

The result, Mate says, gave Traill the unique opportunity to see how the show might look and feel without having to shoot a $2 million pilot.

“By the end of the three days, I think Phil felt great about it,” Mate said. “It was the most efficient means of development for a sketch show that I’d ever seen. He walked out with 30 good ideas as a basis to start writing his sketches. It was a big bang for the buck.”

For the actors, who received a stipend for taking part in the workshop, there’s the chance that Traill may fall in love with some of their characterizations and tap them to join the cast (although there are no guarantees).

“It’s part of what they do, and they got paid,” Mate said. “It’s exposure for them and an opportunity to find a way to be cast into a network show.”

Mate said he expects to receive a script from Traill in the new few weeks. From there, it may be back to the Second City stage for more workshopping.

“There are so many sources from which to pull here,” Mate said.

The Traill project was in the works prior to this week’s executive shakeup, but Traill is no stranger to new NBC Entertainment/NBC U TV Studio co-chairman Ben Silverman: Traill worked with Silverman’s Reveille shingle on a series of shorts for MSN.

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