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‘Superior Donuts’ Takes Dog-Whistle Questions On Race, Gentrification, Gun Control Storylines At TCA

Deadline logo Deadline 1/9/2017 Lisa de Moraes
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Creators of CBS’ new sitcom Superior Donutsdid not dispute one TV critic’s suggestion at TCA that the network will spend zero time marketing its impressive pedigreee: adaptation of Broadway play of same name by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (Tracy Letts).

Judd Hirsch plays a ’60s radical who now owns a donut shop in a Chicago neighborhood that is being gentrified; Katey Sagal plays a donut-shop patron, who is a cop. Jermaine Fowler is an employee who wants to liven up the place. Fowler, a stand-up comic, also is a producer-writer. “My strength is coming in, killing it, leaving,” Fowler told TV critics today, while insisting he loves the multi-cam sitcom format.

Once upon a time, such topicality was de rigueur for American broadcast comedy series, but today, creators took a certain number of questions from more conservative TV critics wondering whether this show would be off-putting to the Trump administration and followers — including one dog-whistle question as to whether they were were worried about “audience reaction” given that people are “especially sensitive now.”

The executive producers promised the show will not be an “issue-of-the-week” comedy; EP Garrett Donovan said the series also tackles dating and donuts, and the show will try never to say the words “Democrat or Republican” but will be “issues-based…in a cultural sense.”

“Although,” chimed in writer/EP Bob Daily, “if it were to incite a tweet war with the president of the United States….”

And, on that happy note, the series has written storylines exploring racial profiling, gun control, gentrification and hate crimes. And Hirsch recalled that one of the best jokes so far, he thinks, is the line in which Fowler’s character asked, “Are you a racist?” to which Hirsch’s character responds, “Not yet.”

The original pilot was rejected by the network and the show was re-shot, after which Hirsch and Sagal — well known for their starring roles in long-running topical comedies – joined the cast. The two regarded actors were doing guest gigs on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory at the time; Sagal, who hasn’t done multi-cam comedy in a while and says the prospect scared her, insisted Hirsch told her she “needed” to do the new series to do the show and she agreed just a couple days before shooting started. Hirsch says was doing a play in the Berkshires when the producers sent him a dozen donuts in the mail, clinching the deal.

Superior Donuts will launch with a special preview on Thursday, February 2 at 8:30 PM behind the network’s flagship comedy series Big Bang Theory. The following Monday, February 6, it will move into its regular slot, Monday at 9 PM, currently occupied by 2 Broke Girls. That veteran sitcom will slide to 9:30 PM, succeeding The Odd Couple, which will have wrapped its 13-episode third season the week previous.

Daily, who wrote Superior Donuts and EPs with Community alums Neil Goldman and Donovan, also is showrunner on Odd Couple, and was asked about that show’s fate during the Donuts Q&A by a reporter who said CBS had told him it still was a “contender” for next season.

“Of course I believe them,” Daily joked. Then, more candidly, he said, “We’re waiting to see. We had a great experience doing the show and our fingers are crossed it will come back….stranger things have happened.” That was not taken as a good sign.

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