Paul Reiser claims he doesn’t mind his new series starting toward the end of the television season.
The former star and executive producer of “Mad About You” is returning to NBC as … well, himself. Or a slightly fictionalized version of himself, along the lines of such other TV-star comedians as Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling and Larry David. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” staple David actually is a guest in the debut of “The Paul Reiser Show” Thursday (April 14).
Though his name is on it, Reiser tells Zap2it he considers the comedy “an ensemble show. There’s this theme of guys who have become friends by default. You’re the fathers of your kids’ friends or the husbands of your wives’ friends, and such is my life at this point. There’s not a thing that happens that couldn’t be an episode. Every day, there’s something.”
Reiser had the luxury of developing his new series at his own pace, thanks to executives at Warner Bros. Television. “I didn’t really want to be on TV,” he admits. “I had spent the last 10 years writing and producing pilots that I was not acting in, and I was really enjoying that. I had never thought about doing it again acting-wise, and I guess I was susceptible to some flattery and encouragement.
“I wrote a pilot that I kind of liked. It was pretty autobiographical, exactly where I was at, but I really wanted to see if we could go past the pilot to the point of it being a real show. We wrote six more scripts, with no real timeline; it was just, ‘Hey, whenever you write them. We’ll do it next year.’ We went around with it, and NBC felt like the place to be, because that had been my home.”
NBC ordered “The Paul Reiser Show” under a different regime, before Comcast purchased the network. “We made the pilot last April,” he recalls, “then we were told we’d be on at midseason. Nobody believes me — well, maybe they do — but I said from the beginning that I wanted to be on at midseason.
“I don’t like the pressure of the spotlight in September: `It’s the new, big thing!’ I’m a big believer in putting a show on and leaving it alone, and letting people find it. I know there’s an audience for this show. It ain’t ‘American Idol,’ it ain’t ‘Glee,’ it’s not a lot of bells and whistles. It’s just funny people in a funny, warm comedy.’
Oscar and four-time Emmy winner Helen Hunt, who was Reiser’s “mate” for the seven seasons of “Mad About You” (1992-99), has directed an episode of “The Paul Reiser Show.” So have Daniel Stern, one of Reiser’s co-stars in the well-regarded 1982 movie “Diner,” and Fred Savage (“The Wonder Years”).
“That was a real joy … and very deliberate,” Reiser says. “I just wanted to work with friends, and I wanted this to be as fun as possible. For comedy, you need support, and you need a loving sandbox. You can’t do it well with people you don’t speak well with. Helen is obviously a close friend and someone I have a real comedic shorthand with, because we did a thousand episodes together.”
Reiser also hopes to repeat on the best-seller charts with “Familyhood,” his follow-up to the books “Couplehood” and “Babyhood.” It hits stores next month, and he deems it “in many ways a companion piece to the show, because it’s the same territory. There’s a lot of stuff in there where we thought, ‘Could this be an episode?’ And if it didn’t quite work that way, it was still worth writing about. You could get deeper, and you didn’t have the need to be as funny.
“What’s nice about it,” Reiser adds, “is that unlike TV, where they’re looking at ratings and everything, there’s no rush. Nobody’s saying, ‘Hey, if you don’t read this book by Friday, we’re taking it away.’ And that’s really a relief.”