It’s been a big 24 hours for cable sitcom renewals, with two newcomers in particular — USA’s Playing House and truTV’s Friends of the People — earning season renewals with a little help from their friends and fans in the digital and On Demand spaces.
Season 2 of Playing House will debut each of its eight new half-hour episodes On Demand a week before airing on USA.
Friends of the People, meanwhile, already will receive an early boost for this season’s remaining episodes via Funny or Die before airing on truTV.
Fans of rookie mockumentary Almost Royal on BBC America and long-running improvised sitcom The League on FXX will be happy to know they can enjoy at least one more season of each in 2015.
Here are the details on each renewal, straight from the networks’ press releases:
USA — Playing House — second season
USA Network today announced the renewal of the critically-acclaimed comedy, PLAYING HOUSE, from Universal Cable Productions, through a new windowing structure, which will allow viewers each week to watch the following week’s episode on Video-On-Demand before it airs on USA. The network will prominently promote the on-demand episodes, driving viewers to watch in the early window. This new approach is designed to offer select advertisers premium placement across millions of multiplatform connected homes, and engage the highly passionate community of PLAYING HOUSE fans across VOD and TV Everywhere platforms. The series, which is executive produced by, written by and stars Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, will return in the second half of 2015 for eight episodes.
“We are so pleased to bring back this beloved series, with the exceptionally talented comedic duo of Jessica and Lennon,” said Chris McCumber, President of USA Network. “Tapping into the increasing power of On Demand, we have the unique opportunity to reward the incredibly devoted fans of PLAYING HOUSE with early access to new content and bring in additional audiences.”
“With the new season of PLAYING HOUSE, we really wanted to give marketers an opportunity to truly follow our video content wherever and whenever the consumer experiences it,” said Linda Yaccarino, President of Advertising Sales for NBCUniversal. “This is a special show in that Jessica, Lennon and the producers will collaborate with our clients to develop custom content in and around the series with this distribution model in mind, as the season develops. It is a prime opportunity for brands to maximize their messaging on different platforms to this highly engaged audience.”
Distributors have seen On Demand TV consumption increase exponentially in recent years, as the platform has grown to become a go-to destination for viewers to catch up and stay current on their favorite shows and discover new ones. NBCU expects to drive over 1.5 billion full episode views On Demand across all platforms in 2014.
“PLAYING HOUSE developed a dedicated audience On Demand and we are excited to work with USA Network to promote the show and to give Xfinity customers the opportunity to catch up on season one and to enjoy season two in a new window,” said Matt Strauss, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Video Services, Comcast Cable. “With nearly three billion hours viewed each year, Xfinity On Demand is a staple in the viewing routines of our customers and has demonstrated the ability to build new audiences, lift ratings, and provide new advertising opportunities.”
Frequently hailed as the new “Lucy and Ethel” or “Tina and Amy,” St. Clair and Parham have emerged as a standout comedic duo. Critics hailed the series as “… next-level hilarious… ” and “Punch-You-In-The-Gut Funny,” making it one of USA’s most talked about series of 2014.
“This new programming model is a testament to the quality of PLAYING HOUSE and the brilliance of Jessica and Lennon who turned viewers into loyal fans,” said Jeff Wachtel, President and Chief Content Officer for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “Great content sets the stage for innovation.”
PLAYING HOUSE centers on childhood best friends Maggie Caruso (Lennon Parham, “Parks and Recreation,” “Mad Men”) and Emma Crawford (Jessica St. Clair, “Bridesmaids”), who together have shared countless adventures growing up in the charming town of Pinebrook, Conn. In the first season, Maggie discovered that her husband Bruce (Brad Morris) was having an online affair, so Emma gave up her burgeoning business career in China to stay in their hometown and help Maggie raise her baby. As they prepared for the birth of Maggie’s first child and the fallout of her marriage ending, Emma was also forced to confront the past that she abruptly left behind thirteen years ago: her first love and local cop, Mark (Keegan-Michael Key), her prim-and-proper mother (Jane Kaczmarek) and a small town in which she’s never felt comfortable. Together, they navigated the adventures of raising a baby in the best way they know how – together.
In addition to St. Clair and Parham, “PLAYING HOUSE” is executive produced by Ravi Nandan of A24 Films (“Hesher”) and Scot Armstrong of American Work, Inc. (“Old School,” “Hangover 2”). The series is produced by Universal Cable Productions.
truTV — Friends of the People — second season
truTV is expanding its order for Friends of the People, the network’s first-ever sketch-comedy series. Comedians Kevin Barnett, Jennifer Bartels, Jermaine Fowler, Lil Rel Howery, The Lucas Bros. and Josh Rabinowitz star in the series, which provides a fresh, unique and extremely hilarious take on sketch comedy, with a combination of scripted scenes, man-on-the-street segments and more. The extensive buzz about Friends of the People has kept the show growing, with its most recent episode drawing +65% more viewers than when it first premiered.
truTV has ordered 10 additional half-hour episodes of Friends of the People, which is being produced by 3 Arts Entertainment and Marobru Productions.
truTV and Funny Or Die are joining forces to showcase truTV’s first-ever sketch-comedy series Friends of the People on Funny Or Die. Starting Wednesday, December 10, Funny Or Die will promote select sketches from the Dec. 16 episode of Friends of the People on www.funnyordie.com, while also directing users to a sneak peek of the full episode on the show’s page on the site at http://www.funnyordie.com/fotp.
BBC America — Almost Royal — second season
BBC AMERICA has picked up a second season of its first original comedy series Almost Royal. The (8×30) second season is produced by Burning Bright Productions with Clive Tulloh (Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man, The Dame Edna Treatment, High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman) as executive producer and Séamus Murphy-Mitchell (Bug, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross) as series producer.
In the first season of Almost Royal, Georgie (Ed Gamble) and Poppy Carlton (Amy Hoggart), the 57th and 58th in line to the throne, travelled all over the United States – from Texas to Michigan and California to New York – familiarizing themselves with this great country and its even greater citizens. Now, Georgie and Poppy return to continue their examination of American culture, exploring subjects like beauty, holidays, sport and law and order. Leaving no stone unturned, they will dig deep to push the boundaries of documentary journalism to show the world what America looks like from a British – almost royal – point of view.
Clive Tulloh, Executive Producer, said: “Burning Bright is delighted to have the opportunity to be making a second season of Almost Royal for BBC AMERICA. We are very proud to have made such an innovative comedy series that had found an audience on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Perry Simon, General Manager, BBC AMERICA added: “Poppy and Georgie are back. God help us all.”
Almost Royal is a BBC AMERICA original series produced by Burning Bright Productions and distributed by BBC Worldwide. The first season premiered on BBC AMERICA on June 21, 2014 and aired on E4 in the UK. Ahead of the series launch, BBC AMERICA collaborated with YouTube Space LA on Almost Royal Goes to YouTube, a web series featuring YouTube stars.
FXX — The League — seventh and final season
Shivakamini Somakandarkram! FXX’s hit comedy series The League will return for its seventh and final season with 13 episodes in the fall of 2015, it was announced today by Nick Grad and Eric Schrier, Presidents of Original Programming, FX Networks and FX Productions. The League, which just completed its sixth season, was created by the husband-and-wife team of Jeff Schaffer (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld) and Jackie Marcus Schaffer (Disturbia, Eurotrip) who serve as executive producers and directors. The series is produced by FX Productions.
“Our gang can burn a beach house like Calvin Johnson on a secondary but I shudder to think what they’ll do in the final battle for the Shiva,” said Grad. “The real studs here are the fans who have remained so loyal to the show over the years, including the move to FXX, and for them we are going out on top.”
“We are incredibly excited to work with our amazing cast for another season, especially because I can now announce that I finally won the fantasy football league that we play in with them,” said Jeff Schaffer.
“Whatever, I’ve won it twice,” Jackie Schaffer said. “Most players in the NFL don’t make it seven seasons, and most TV shows even less so. We want to thank FX Networks and all our Eskimo Brothers and Sisters – NFL teams would be lucky to have fans as diehard as ours.”
“Spoiler alert – We already know how it will all end – with credits and the theme song,” added Jeff Schaffer.
The League has proven its strength as a stand-alone show. Even without a lead-in from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which it had for its first five seasons, The League’s Season 6 ratings were in line with the previous season (through 11 episodes) in both P18-49 and Total Viewers. Additionally, among all 84 scripted comedy series in basic/pay cable this year, Season 6 of The League ranks in the Top 20 among all key male demos.
The League follows a group of old friends in a fantasy football league who care deeply about one another – so deeply that they use every opportunity to make each other’s lives miserable. The League features an ensemble cast of rising actors/comedians. Stephen Rannazzisi (Paul Blart: Mall Cop) is “Kevin,” a happily married father and commissioner of the league. Katie Aselton (Black Rock) plays “Jenny,” Kevin’s wife and his better half – especially when it comes to Fantasy Football. Mark Duplass (Tammy) plays “Pete,” the perennial league champ who is struggling to become an adult. Jon Lajoie is “Taco,” Kevin’s little brother, a part-time musician and full-time stoner with little interest in fantasy other than hanging with his buddies (whom he struggles to remember). “Andre,” played by Paul Scheer (NTSF:SD:SUV), has continued to be the punching bag of the group since their high school days – a fact that hasn’t changed despite the fact he is now a successful plastic surgeon. Nick Kroll (Kroll Show) plays “Ruxin,” who believes he is the smartest of the group but can’t figure out how exactly the other guys are screwing him over.