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Femme creatives fuel comedy pilots

Nets take chance on strong new voices

There was a notable spike in the number of comedy pilots fielded by femme creators this development season. And now that the clock is ticking on pickup decisions in advance of next month’s upfront presentations, a number of projects with the strongest industry buzz hail from femme creators and exec producers.

Tina Fey notwithstanding, comedy writing rooms have long been dominated by male scribes, particularly at the higher levels of showrunners and exec producers. The uptick in pilot activity for the distaff side is a sign that there are growing numbers of femme scribes who have put in the time at the lower rungs and have now earned their chance to do their own pilots. And nets are also showing a willingness to gamble on less experienced creators who bring a strong voice to their scripts.

At ABC, one of the heatseekers so far is 20th Century Fox TV’s “Apartment 23,” about a Midwestern girl who moves to New York and winds up living with an amoral roommate, from Nahnatchka Khan, an alum of “American Dad” and “Malcolm in the Middle.”

Also said to be generating good vibes at ABC is Warner Bros. TV’s “Suburgatory,” about a teen girl forced to move to the suburbs, from Emily Kapnek (“Parks and Recreation,” “Hung”); and ABC Studios’ “Bad Mom,” starring Jenna Elfman as a woman who suddenly has to raise her children. “Mom” hails from British scribe-thesp Sharon Horgan.

Fox’s untitled 20th Century Fox TV project from scribe Liz Meriwether (Adult Swim’s “Children’s Hospital”) is seen a hot prospect; it stars Zooey Deschanel as a quirky teacher who moves in with three unruly men. Also high on the radar at Fox is Warner Bros. TV’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” from sitcom vets Sherry Bilsing-Graham and Ellen Kreamer, which stars Jaime Pressly and Katie Finneran as mothers of high-maintenance daughters.

NBC has several femme-led contenders in its comedy mix, including the Chelsea Handler-inspired “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea,” penned by “Dharma & Greg” alums Dottie Dartland Zicklin and Julie Larson.

Standup comic Whitney Cummings is having a busy pilot season. Her autobiographical NBC/Universal Media Studios pilot is said to have been well-received by the Peacock, and it already has a seasoned showrunner on board in exec producer Betsy Thomas (“My Boys”). Cummings also collaborated with Michael Patrick King on the CBS laffer “Two Broke Girls” (no word yet on how that one is faring at the Eye).

The untitled NBC project from “Parks & Recreation” scribe Emily Spivey is said to have momentum, in part because it is shepherded by Lorne Michaels.

The reviews are still out on two other NBC projects steered by prominent femme showrunners, 20th Century Fox TV’s “I Hate That I Love You,” from Jhoni Marchinko (“Will & Grace”) and Warner Bros. TV’s untitled project from Kari Lizer (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”).

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