PASADENA, Calif. — The road to network TV comedy runs increasingly through Fairfield County.
Fish-out-of-water stories on the Connecticut gold coast are the basis of a couple of first season network sitcoms. After "American Housewife" brought Katy Mixon trying to adjust to life in tony Westport,
And just as "Housewife" has been declared an early hit at ABC, "The Mick" is already advertising itself as the new year's No. 1 new comedy.
It stars Kaitlin Olson, of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" fame, as a ne'er do well from Warwick, R.I., Mackenzie "Mickey" Murphy, whose sister, Poodle, married up and lives the life of the 1 percent in Greenwich.
When Poodle and her husband are arrested on charges of federal fraud and tax evasion, though, Mick is enlisted to watching their three kids.
Like the TV adaptation of "Uncle Buck" (which wasn't as successful), it's all about the irresponsible slacker teaching life lessons to the initially appalled niece and nephews. "The Mick" may know nothing about child raising but enjoys some of the perks of the rich life.
"I went to college in Rhode Island, so we wanted to set something there, and then we wanted to find the complete opposite of that. And to us, that was Greenwich, Connecticut," says John Chernin, the Brown grad who created the series with his brother, Dave.
Both grew up in Los Angeles and have been writers for six seasons on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," rising to the rank of co-executive producers.
"We talked about Laguna Beach or Orange County or something" as a setting, Chernin says, "but felt like that felt a little familiar."
New England, he says, "was an area that we were more familiar with."
"One of my dear friends from college grew up in Greenwich, so I've been there a handful of times," Chernin says. "It's not a place I've been back to many times. My grandma is from Westport, so I've been there a few times. I just love the East Coast in general."
There he learned about income disparity as well.
"Going to Brown, you're at one of the supposedly most elite schools in the country," Chernin says. "But my best friend drove the Zamboni at the hockey games, so I loved hanging out with that guy. He was so rough and tumble and funny and I would just howl with laughter hanging out with him every night.
"I liked that dichotomy and contrast of a really salt-of-the-earth person up against the most elite of the elite," he says. "We just thought that would be a funny contrast."
In one sense "The Mick" reflects class divides in the this country, his brother says.
"We thought we had a cool opportunity here to explore class dichotomy in a way that didn't feel forced or heavy handed," says Dave Chernin. "But at the end of the day, you know, it's really character based. And we are not trying to push any sort of agenda here. It's really just what makes us laugh. So I think it was built into the premise a little bit, and we use that as a good asset to our writing."
But as far as pointing out class distinctions, he adds, "we weren't trying to say too much."
Their influences traced back to the most innocent sources, such as
"'Home Alone' was a huge influence for us with this show," Dave Chernin says. "That was just stuff that cracked us up when we were kids."
Hence, all of the show's slapstick. "I think the more stunts we do, the more we thirst for more, because it's really fun."
Like "American Housewife," "The Mick" is not shot in Connecticut. Its interiors are shot in a set in Los Angeles; the exteriors at a mansion in Bel Air. "It's just an enormous piece of property," John Chernin says. "We paint most of the palm trees out."
Indeed, the very hotel where they were speaking to the press as part of the TV Critics Association winter press tour last month, the Langham Huntington, was subbed in as a Greenwich country club in a recent episode.
Its cast includes Sofia Black-D'Elia, who last year played the victim in the HBO miniseries "The Night Of," Thomas Barbusca, and Carla Jimenez.
But it runs on the star power of Olson, who in addition to 12 seasons of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," provided a featured voice in last summer's "Finding Dory."
To be starring in two comedies at once, Olson says, is "completely surreal. I was almost kind of numb. I was, like, 'Wait, I should be feeling more than this right now? This is so cool.'
"Between these two things and my wonderful children at home, it's really kind of a whole dream come true," she says. "I'm super, super honored, very grateful."
THE MICK airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.