In the days before Donal Logue was a working actor, he worked the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift on the cleaning crew at a New York hotel. It wasn't ideal.
"It's a pretty tough existence to be working in New York, not making much money, working when everyone else is sleeping," he recalls. "If you want to have a drink after work, it's at 8:30 and you're doing it as people walk by to their high-powered jobs."
Logue gets to draw on that experience a little in ABC's new comedy "The Knights of Prosperity." He stars in the series as Eugene Gurkin, a night janitor in Queens whose fundamental decency has gotten him exactly nowhere in life. But he hits on a plan to change things: He and a crew of equally beaten-down schmoes will rob the palatial Manhattan apartment of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger (who appears in Wednesday's premiere and is an executive producer of the show).
"Watching yet another person prance about and brag about how much they have, this guy finally decides he can in some way change the path of his life and say enough is enough and I'm not going to take it anymore," Logue says. "Unfortunately the way he chooses to go about changing his life is through crime. But so be it -- it makes it funnier."
"The Knights of Prosperity," in fact, was born of the idea of making a show "that had a comedic premise to it," co-creator Rob Burnett ("Ed") says. That may sound like a no-brainer, but as Burnett explains, "Most comedies on television don't really have a comedic premise. If you think of 'Friends,' 'Seinfeld,' 'Raymond' or 'Frasier,' those are all amazing shows, obviously, but they're not funny to describe.
"Instead of, 'Let's have a bunch of people sit around and talk about stuff,' it became, 'Let's have a driving narrative, and they can talk about stuff as they accomplish things.'"
What Eugene and his downmarket band of thieves -- the cast also includes Lenny Venito, Sofia Vergara, Kevin Michael Richardson, Maz Jobrani and Josh Grisetti -- want to accomplish is the Robin Hood-esque feat of "stealing from the rich and giving to ourselves," as Eugene puts it. With Jagger as the mark, the Knights of Prosperity are born; Eugene even prints up T-shirts, because he's just that excited about his new enterprise.
"It's an extension of my 12-year-old self: This is our secret club, guys, and I made up T-shirts and a song," Logue says. "I felt like Eugene is someone who thinks in those quasi-Dungeons & Dragons, super-romantic, medieval terms. It's kind of a quixotic mission he's on. Everyone is like, 'Why is it "The Knights of Prosperity,"' but when you see it from his mindset it makes complete and utter sense."
The show was initially scheduled to premiere in October, but as the season started ABC didn't promote it much, focusing instead on the move of "Grey's Anatomy" to Thursday nights and other new shows like "Ugly Betty." Burnett and co-creator Jon Beckerman had brought the show to ABC in part because of the network's marketing prowess the past couple of seasons under entertainment president Steve McPherson, so they were concerned at first about the lack of a push for "Knights."
"What was amazing about it was when we talked to McPherson himself, he said, 'You're right. We really didn't promote it because of all these other reasons,'" Burnett says. "And we understood. ... We all put our heads together and he said, We love the show; let's move it back to January and give it a gigantic launch. And we're getting a gigantic launch."
Beckerman and Burnett are coy about whether Jagger will appear in episodes after the premiere, but they say his presence isn't really necessary other than as the MacGuffin Eugene and his fellow Knights are chasing.
"There's a certain underdog quality to the show," Burnett says. "Everything we do is done through Eugene's worldview, which is kind of romantic and optimistic but sometimes a little ill-founded."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times