Right now, everyone is looking for some kind of reprieve from being locked up at home due to the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards anytime soon, but The Office executive producers Paul Lieberstein and Ben Silverman think they’ve figured out a way to make light of the situation by crafting a new workplace comedy series inspired by the sudden rise in employees working from home due to the outbreak of coronavirus forcing people to practice social distancing.
Deadline was first to learn of the currently untitled coronavirus comedy series, though it’s not necessarily about the pandemic. Paul Lieberstein and Ben Silverman, better known to The Office fans as the frequently maligned Toby Flenderson and one of Jim’s business partners at their company Athlead, are creating the series that is said to focus on “wunderkind boss who, in an effort to ensure his staff’s connectedness and productivity, asks them all to virtually interact and work face-to-face all day.”
The series is in the works at Big Breakfast, the comedy production banner Silverman runs, where he’ll executive produce the series along with and Luke Kelly-Clyne (College Humor) and Kevin Healey (Scare Tactics). They’ll also be working with Howard Owens’ Propagate Content, which will have Rodney Ferrell serving as an executive producer as well.
Silverman, who was also once an NBC executive, explained the inception of the series and his hope for what it will become:
“So many of us are jumping on daily Zoom meetings — for work and beyond. We are in a new normal and are personally navigating ways to remain connected and productive at work and in our home lives. With the brilliant Paul Lieberstein at the helm, we think we have a series that not only brings humor and comfort during this troubling time but will also be an inventive and enduring workplace comedy for years to come.”
While the prospect of trying to craft a series around the coronavirus outbreak sounds like a bad idea at this time, there’s no indication that the pandemic will actually play a part in the overall concept of the series. In fact, it would be easy to pull something like this off without introducing such a grim plot device.
What I’m envisioning with this series is a show with a format that echoes what we’ve seen accomplished with movies like Unfriended and Searching. Both of those films play out entirely on computer or mobile device screens and successfully tell a solid narrative. Modern Family did something similar with an episode that unfolded across the ensemble cast’s various screens, and it worked pretty well. But if that’s what this series will be like, can that concept be sustained for an entire series? Or will they need to take breaks from the screen format every now and then?
Lieberstein seems to be confident in his statement where he simply said, “Start with the office comedy, lose the office and you’re just left with comedy. The math works.” I’m not sure if that math works, Toby, but we’ll wait until we see the series before we pass full judgment.
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