Don’t knock your kid’s favorite sitcom on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Chances are those sacchrine punchlines you hear from the mouths of babes come courtesy of the same scribes who once made you laugh at adult-oriented fare on Friends, Mad About You, and Married With Children. The dearth of comedies on broadcast TV has prompted scores of out-of-work writers to flock to the kiddie cable networks, where multicamera shows like Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place and Nick’s iCarly are thriving, thanks in part to their seasoned writing staffs.
“It’s the new frontier,” says Andy Gordon, a former member of the Back To You writers’ room who now executive produces True Jackson VP, a Nickelodeon comedy debuting in November that stars Akeelah and the Bee’s Keke Palmer as a 15-year-old fashion mogul. “The broadcast networks are nervous all the time, and it poisons the process. I’m never nervous here because we got picked up for 20 episodes. I’m not living in fear that I’ll be canceled after three weeks.”
Of course, his new gig is not completely stress-free. Since his hiring budget is limited, Gordon has had to turn away network-trained dialogue and story writers seeking employment — even though some were willing to take a pay cut. And he may see a lot more applications in his in-box by Halloween. “I’m in the same building on the Paramount lot with (NBC and CBS freshman comedies) Kath & Kim and Worst Week,” says Gordon. “They’re nice people, but if they don’t perform in (their first) three weeks, we’ll be the only ones left in the building.”