Evan Shapiro hasn’t wasted any time since he left NBCUniversal following the decision to shutter Seeso, the streaming comedy service that he launched for the Peacock in January 2016.
Shapiro dove head-first into the Peak TV fray as independent producer after exiting 30 Rock in May. Working through his new EShap.TV banner, Shapiro is juggling more than a dozen projects in development.
Earlier this month he partnered with seasoned comedy director-producer Troy Miller and his Dakota Pictures to shoot a pilot for a topical roundtable talk show, “Eat Your Words.” The spec pilot, loosely based on a British format, brings together comedians from diverse backgrounds together in a Queens diner to riff on the week’s headlines, social issues, pop culture trends and, of course, politics.
Shapiro is also executive producing two projects that were selected for competition at this year’s New York Television Festival in October: “Max Riddle,” which he describes as “ ‘Atlanta’ for Trump’s America,” and “Bartlett,” which features performers from the Freestyle Love Supreme troupe and a guest shot from FLS alum Lin-Manuel Miranda.
After years as a programming executive at IFC, AMC and Pivot, Shapiro is enjoying being a free agent. He’s been assembling his own concepts such as “Eat Your Words,” and at the same time he’s finding himself recruited to work on projects that need the skills he brings as a shaper of material and nurturer of talent.
“Right now there’s an opportunity to sell a lot of television to a lot of people,” Shapiro told Variety. “There’s more an openness to different stories and different points of view than at any time in media history.”
“Eat Your Words” is designed as a weekly improvised ensemble comedy that trades on the weeks headlines and cultural cross currents. The panel is moderated by Negin Farsad, host of the podcast “Fake the Nation.” Comedians Gina Yashere, Jena Friedman, Godfrey, and Ian Harvie round out the group that gathers in a busy diner to dish and dine. The show will soon be shopped to cable and streaming outlets.
“Eat Your Words” aims to be a fast-paced and funny take on politics and culture, with an emphasis on showcasing “voices that are rarely represented in these types of shows,” he said.
Miller said Dakota opted to finance the “Eat Your Words” pilot, lensed at the Bel Aire Diner in Astoria, out of a desire to be in business with Shapiro as he revs up EShap.TV. The two have worked together on projects several times over the years, most recently with the Seeso travelogue spoof series “Hidden America with Jonah Ray.” Dakota and Shapiro have a few other projects in the works beyond “Eat Your Words.”
“Evan is one of the best creative executives I’ve collaborated with,” Miller said. “It’s fun to see the tables turned with me being a support to him instead of him buying a show from me. I’m excited to see what he does now in the indie world.”
“Max Riddle” hails from creators Jeff Skowron and Matt Yeager. Shapiro met the pair at the New York TV Festival several years ago when he bought a project from them during his IFC days. The hourlong dramedy pilot revolves around a man in a small-town who is pushed to expand his horizons after losing his job to a robot.
Comedy “Bartlett,” created by Martin Edwards and Chrissy Mazzeo, follows a washed-up advertising executive who has 10 hours to turn his life around.
The whirlwind experience of launching the subscription Seeso venture at NBCUniversal has proven to be good training for Shapiro’s next chapter. Shapiro and his small team at Seeso produced some 30 original comedy series and specials in two years.
“It was a great opportunity to learn the digital business and to be part of some really great brands,” Shapiro said of Seeso. “I’m grateful for the opportunity that helped open these doors. Now I’m very much enjoying focusing exclusively on the creative.”
(Pictured: “Eat Your Words”)