“Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence and fellow scribe Tim Hobert want to prove that mainstream sitcoms can still be done, creating a laffer around standup Brian Regan.
NBC has picked up the project from sib NBC Universal TV Studios. Concurrently, NUTS has signed Hobert to a seven-figure, two-year overall deal. Peacock also has committed Regan to a talent holding deal.
Lawrence already is set up at NUTS, where he’s developing the WB project “Nobody’s Watching,” along with Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan.
Laffer stars Regan as a married man who moves with his wife from the suburbs to Chicago in search of more out of life. Lawrence and Hobert said they’ve been wanting to create a show for Regan ever since they worked together on “Spin City.”
“He’s the best comic out there who hasn’t had a TV show,” Lawrence said. “We both agreed that we’d do this together a long time ago. But we had to wait until he had enough clout to pitch shows and until we worked for the same company.”
The duo flew NBC execs out to Phoenix to watch Regan perform his act, which forgoes simple joke punchlines in favor of slice-of-life situations. The audience — which Lawrence notes are the people still watching TV — gave Regan a four-minute standing ovation at the end.
“It’s easy to lose touch with what people in the rest of the country find funny,” Lawrence said. “People are eating up his DVDs and CDs.”
Lawrence and Hobert said Regan will play a funny version of himself, a married guy torn between his best friend and his wife.
NUTS co-prexy David Kissinger said he was impressed with how Regan connects with his audience.
“This is one of these guys who’s built up a whole body of material that has a point of view,” Kissinger said. “That’s exactly what you hope for when you think about developing a show for a standup. Not someone who has just five minutes of material.”
Lawrence and Hobert said they were also anxious to show that a four-camera half-hour with a simple premise can still work in today’s environment.
“One of the things that got us psyched to do this is we’re in the midst of a time where everyone’s writing articles about the death of the traditional sitcom,” Lawrence said. “So we’re intentionally doing a traditional sitcom. And we won’t panic until people do a really good traditional sitcom and people still reject it.”
As for Hobert, scribe — who serves as a co-exec producer on “Scrubs” — officially begins his NUTS deal in June. At that time, he’ll either be running the Regan laffer or (should the Regan project not go to series) be loaned out to “Scrubs,” which is produced by Touchstone TV.
“When I came to ‘Scrubs’ I started to forge a relationship with the people at NBC,” Hobert said. “After two years on ‘Scrubs,’ they felt I was the type of guy they wanted to work with.”
(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)