It’s not even the start of the fall 2011 TV season, and already the networks have been busy buying pitches and signing up talent to development deals — but NBC went the extra step this week and agreed to a “put pilot” commitment with Sarah Silverman for her semi-autobiographical sitcom. In the simplest of terms, this means NBC will face substantial penalty fees if they don’t put Silverman’s pilot on TV.

Which means Silverman most likely will be the third female stand-up comedian to join the network’s primetime schedule in the next 12 months.

NBC already has dedicated what seems like a large portion of its promotional budget to win the hearts and minds of viewers over to Whitney Cummings. If you’ve happened upon the channel this summer, then you’ve likely seen more than a few ads for her multi-cam sitcom, Whitney, which the network is debuting in its celebrated Thursday-night lineup with The Office as its lead-in. And Chelsea Handler’s sitcom, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, has undergone significant re-tooling but is still slated as a midseason replacement.

All three came up through the ranks of stand-up comedy and are basing their sitcoms loosely around their stand-up material.

Although Silverman’s new project is more autobiographical than the others — centering around her very real situation of re-entering the dating life after being in a long-term, live-in relationship with Jimmy Kimmel. She has a proven track record in TV with her Comedy Central/Logo show, The Sarah Silverman Program (with two scribes from that, Dan Sterling and Jon Schroeder, working on this, too). And Silverman has the backing of Imagine’s Ron Howard. His history of TV work is, well, a bit more than proven both seen (The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days) and  heard (Arrested Development). No wonder the networks all were eager to jump on board.