Touchstone skein bound for NBC sked

'Ellen,' 'Grace' scribes pilot 'Daddio' family sitcom

NBC has greenlit production on a family comedy from Touchstone Television — perhaps the clearest sign yet that being part of the ABC banner isn’t hurting the Disney-owned studio’s ability to do business with other webs.

The half-hour sitcom pilot, from former “Ellen” and “Grace Under Fire” scribes Matt Berry and Ric Swartzlander, is the first Touchstone project for a network other than ABC to get a firm production greenlight since Touchstone was folded into the ABC banner last summer.

The studio also has projects in various stages of development at the other major webs, countering early post-merger buzz that Touchstone would simply become ABC’s inhouse production arm.

Cool “Daddio”

Tentatively titled “Daddio,” the Berry/Swartzlander skein will revolve around a married father who’s chosen to stay home and care for his kids while his wife works outside the home. Berry and Swartzlander have already written the pilot script and will serve as exec producers of the series.

The pilot is skedded to be shot within the next two months, allowing NBC the opportunity to put the show on the air as early as March. The deal with NBC calls for production of the pilot, with penalties attached if the series is not picked up for at least six episodes.

NBC Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier seems particularly enthusiastic about the project, telling Daily Variety Thursday that the pilot script “has the tone of ‘Home Improvement’ to it,” even if the plot is substantially different than the long-running Tim Allen laffer.

Unlike past sitcoms and movies about stay-at-home dads, Berry said “Daddio” will portray a father completely at ease with changing diapers, treating fevers and other tasks associated with child-rearing. Berry and Swartzlander hope instead to find humor by examining how a man deals with spending most of his day at home, coping with the daily problems of running a household.

“He doesn’t have a problem dealing with his children … (but) when the cable guy is rude, he’s going to get in his face,” said Berry. “He’s a guy.”

Family comedies popular

With NBC execs not shy about acknowledging their desire to launch new family comedies, “Daddio” may stand a better-than-average shot at getting on the air. It will, however, have to compete against several other family-focused sitcoms in development at NBC, including previously announced projects from Keenen Ivory Wayans and producers Bonnie and Terry Turner.

Swartzlander and Berry had previously been partners in the Reliable Television Co., a partnership with former “Ellen” exec producer Tim Doyle which was dissolved in September.

During the 1997-98 season, Swartzlander and Berry worked together as supervising producers on “Ellen.” The year before, the duo were producers on “Grace Under Fire.” Berry was a writer on “Roseanne” from 1994-96.

Swartzlander and Berry are repped by CAA. Berry is also repped by attorney Jeanne Newman of Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman & Warren, Hertz & Goldring.