NBC’s ‘Abby’s’ Sets Up a Bar Outside

Abby's - Season Pilot

The one show NBC had to offer in its half day session at the TV Critics Association winter press tour this week was “Abby’s,” a multi-camera sitcom about a woman who opens a neighborhood bar in her backyard, from Michael Schur and Josh Malmuth that stars Natalie Morales.

“The idea seemed cool,” Schur said of a sitcom set out of doors. “The biggest selling point for me was, like, that would be different and interesting and weird and fun.”

The live audience brings its own energy, Morales says. “It’s different than a single cam in that you have to memorize a 30-page script for that day and shoot the entire thing that night. But it’s really fun. It’s a play. It’s like we’re doing, in our case, very Shakespeare-in-the-Park-y or ‘Cheers’ in the Park, if you will.”

The notion of sitcom set in a bar brought up notions of that famous TV show where everyone knows your name.

“It’s a completely natural question that’s going to come up, I suspect, over and over,” says Flynn, who comes to the show after the end of “The Middle.” Only the setting is similar, he says, and it’s been 25 years since it’s been on. “Except it occurs to everyone,” he says.

“When Josh and I were beginning to plan the show, we were acutely aware of the fact that no matter what we did, the show would be compared to ‘Cheers,’” Schur says. “And that was really freeing because we were, like, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter, right?’ We could cast all 90 year old women, and people will still go, ‘That’s kind of like Sam.’  There’s nothing you can do.”

Any problems involving shooting outside at night, in front of a live audience, are minimal, Morales says. “The things we had to worry about were airplanes and helicopters.”

“On most show nights somebody would come up to me and say, ‘Just so you know, there is a skunk 10 feet that way,’” Malmuth says.

It’s shot on the Universal Studios lot, on the former Wisteria Lane of the old ‘Desperate Housewives.”

It’s “in the back of one of those houses,” Chaffin says, “and we passed the time in the lovely Los Angeles weather. It was pretty great.”

“Abby’s” premieres March 28 at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.

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