NBC announced today that it has green-lit "Tooken," a sitcom created by “30 Rock” alums Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, starring Ellie Kemper of “The Office.” The series will focus on Kemper’s character, a women who has moved to New York to start a new life after escaping a “Doomsday Cult.” NBC has ordered 13 episodes of the show, which will air in the fall of 2014.
While no specifics have yet been released, there are a number of speculations that can be made, and possibly even some predictions. The first prediction, coming from a former Jehovah’s Witness who has followed Kemper’s career since before her debut on “The Office,” is that the basic description coupled with the comedic acting skill of Kemper is a comedy goldmine, and the idea is bleeding success.
Speculations on some of the details of this “Doomsday Cult” is that it probably won’t be a Christian based one like any that branched out of the Millerite movement of the 19th Century. There is nothing in the background work of any of the producers, Fey, Carlock, or even Miner to suggest they might go in this direction. In fact it’s entirely likely that Fey’s highly progressive stance will add to the hesitancy to touch on Christianity on television. Why this is the case probably has a lot to do with politics in America and a liberal tendency to just avoid the topic, but this is just a personal observation.
Most likely the cult will be some sort of Scientology-like group involving some silly alien overlords. It would be interesting if David Miner, who has also worked on “Parks and Recreation,” based it on that shows “Zorp” concept, a somewhat silly and ineffectual group that meets every year for the giant fire-breathing lizard to come and destroy the world, on whichever day can be scheduled to hold in one of the parks.
Either way, this will be an opportunity to show the emotional scars and developmental deficiencies that occur in an individual who actually comes out of one of these groups. Typically they have great difficulty integrating with society, are extremely anxious and avoid group activities. They have great difficulty making decisions, not always because they can’t, but because they never really learned how. The world is a very strange place, and these people are terribly alone in it.
Such a thing would be hard to imagine being made into a sitcom. That’s why Kemper is the perfect woman to be cast in this situation; many aspects of cult survivors are somewhat similar to the character she played on “The Office,” a girl who became lost in the foster care system and grew up without any consistent parentage. She more than often didn’t recognize “the normal” in any given situation. Odd as it may sound, that’s exactly what happens to cult survivors, though often the tragedy comes from the psychological damage. It will be interesting to see if this is something the producers will wish to pursue.
In any case, with “30 Rock” and “The Office” off the air and only “Parks and Recreation” to give us our weekly dose of NBC silliness (Thank you Nick Offerman for giving us the amazing Ron Swanson). NBC says it’s unusual to out-right green-light a project so quickly, but chances are the success of this show is guaranteed.