LOS ANGELES — We never expected the Pop network to be a treasure-trove of comedy.
We didn’t expect much of anything, actually. The network’s image and purpose were kind of sketchy.
But here it is now, with producers ranging from Norman Lear (97 and a TV legend) to Laura Chinn, 33, who spent years adrift in Florida. “I would go to California, but I couldn’t stay for long,” she said.
They’re part of Pop’s small-but-impressive comedy bunch. It has:
— “Florida Girls,” which ends its first season Wednesday; it’s shown here, with Chinn at the left.
— “Schitt’s Creek,” from the Levys (Dan and his father Eugene), about a family clinging to a small-town motel. This year brought Emmy and Television Critics Association nominations for best comedy.
— Lear’s “One Day at a Time” reboot. Last year, it had that same TCA nomination for best comedy.
— “Best Intentions,” a new show from “American Pie” writer-producer Adam Herz. “It’s the highest-testing pilot I’ve ever had,” said Brad Schwartz, the Pop president.
— “Flack,” a drama with some comedy, which has just been picked up for a second season. Anna Paquin stars as a British public-relations whiz and produces the show with her husband (and “True Blood” co-star) Stephen Moyer. She’s added Sam Neill (her “Piano” co-star) as a guest star.
That’s a short list and these are short-season (6 to 10 episodes) shows. But it’s way more than people expected from the former TV Guide Network.
It became Pop four-and-a-half years ago, with talk of being a pop-culture network – red-carpet interviews, fan fests, entertainment news, etc. None of that caught on, but there was an anomaly: Pop got a good deal on “Schitt’s Creek,” which the Levys were doing for Canadian TV.
Then came “Florida Girls,” a pilot shot on speculation, with a raggedly personal feel. “Netflix was interested; Comedy Central was interested,” Schwartz said, “but we ended up with it.”
Next was a surprise in March, when the much-praised “One Day at a Time” was cancelled by Netflix. “We had a real passion for the show and Sony wanted to continue it,” Schwartz said, but the price was out of his reach. “We had to stretch up, Sony came down” and it worked out.
Now he adds “Best Intentions” — a single father as a high school guidance counselor, still shy in his own love life – and the sometimes-comic “Flack.” Schwartz hopes to string them along one timeslot – one episode per week — for an entire season. That’s different from this first season of “Florida Girls,” with 10 episodes packed into five Wednesdays. “It was a way to get people to know it all at once.”
There’s much to know and like about “Girls,” with four young women drifting through life, 10 years after dropping out of high school. And yes, Linn said, that was her life … but not for a decade.
She was 9 when she moved to Florida, soon drifting into the culture. “My mother is very supportive, (but) she pretty much let me do what I wanted.”
That included drinking, dropping out and living a loose life while working as a waitress. She wanted to be an actress, but kept returning to her friends in Clearwater. “They’re my family.”
Unlike the character she plays, Linn broke away after four years, moving west. She found occasional acting roles, plus writing jobs with Fox’s “The Mick” and “Grandfathered.” Then she crafted this TV version of the life she might have stayed with.
The three friends are fictional, but the Shelby character is a lot like Linn – torn between ambition and continuing the life she knows,
Like Shelby, Chinn is bi-racial. (In real life, she has a black father and white mother, but she reversed that for the show.) And like Shelby, few people realize it. “I overheard a lot of mean things” in what people assumed were all-white settings.
That was in her semi-anonymous years. Now she’s in a new Linn-Lear-Levys world.
— “Florida Girls” two-part finale, 10 and 10:30 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 7), Pop.
— Reruns late Thursday night, technically at midnight and 12:30 a.m. Friday.