News · TV

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to Disrupt the Workplace with New NBC Comedy

‘Business as Usual’ could be a very meta series, but that’s exactly what Lord and Miller are great at.
By  · Published on September 13th, 2018

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the masterminds behind the 21 Jump Street adaptations and The Lego Movie series, aren’t done conquering the world of entertainment. This continues to be a big year for the duo in the lead-up to two high-profile animated features – Smallfoot and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. We’ll finally get the second installment of The Lego Movie in early 2019, as well. Sometime down the line, they’ll adapt Andy Weir’s “Artemis” into a feature.

Still, Lord and Miller aren’t resting on their laurels. Instead, they are currently planning a brand-new television show to complement their big-screen successes.

As reported by Variety, Business as Usual will be Lord and Miller’s next producing venture. The single-camera sitcom is in development at NBC. Writer and producer Hayes Davenport (Family Guy, Vice Principals) is in charge of bringing the series to life, which will be set in a “company in crisis.” Told from the viewpoints of regular employees, workplace drama and job insecurity will ultimately play out in an outrageous setting. Specificities relating to characters and story arcs are kept under wraps for now.

For the time being, there’s no word on any other creative attachments to the series, either, including Lord and Miller’s own involvement in potentially writing or helming any episodes. Nevertheless, the premise of Business as Usual already fits within the general parodic impression that can be found in all of their work thus far.

Variety notes a potential meta link between Business as Usual and certain crumbling institutions within Hollywood. The Walt Disney Company’s absorption of Twentieth Century Fox Television amidst the massive Disney-Fox merger has left Fox TV heads Gary Newman and Dana Walden assuring everyone that it would be “business as usual” at the network in the interim. Moreover, Lord and Miller will, in fact, produce Business as Usual through their eponymous production banner, which is under an overall deal at Fox.

Whether any of these real-life connections come to fruition on screen remains to be seen. Although frankly, nobody should be very surprised if Lord and Miller’s commentary is spot-on and unabashed. That has certainly been the case throughout their existing filmography, anyway.

The twosome has built a brand on vibrant, fun, ambitious, and satirical storytelling. Nothing exemplifies this more than the fact that they began a feature film career on the writing team of Extreme Movie. However, when considering what is arguably Lord and Miller’s most iconic big-screen triumph to date, The Lego Movie is a prime example of just how ridiculous the pair can get. The Lego Movie is overflowing with neverending pop culture references and exists in a universe that gamely mashes up live-action as well as animated landscapes. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part looks to up the ante further from its trailer alone.

And let’s not forget about the Jump Street film series, which perfectly lampoons archetypes that are commonly associated with teen movies while containing a whole lot of heart. In contrast, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and its sequel are decidedly less satirical with its slapstick comedy, but these films are vastly imaginative with their creative visions nonetheless.

Over the years, Lord and Miller have contributed substantially to TV, too. These days, the only ongoing series that they’re overseeing happens to be the Cartoon Network spinoff Unikitty!, which is based on the character of the same name that was first introduced in their Lego Movie franchise. The duo directed and executive produced the excellent pilot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and worked on several episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

I’d focus on more of a cult favorite, though: Clone High, an animated teen sitcom that sadly only ran for a season. This show actually remains one of the touchstones of the Lord and Miller’s career. Clone High is yet another cheeky play on the teen show experience. Its premise concerns reviving off-kilter versions of famous historical figures, imbuing them with a variety of stereotypical teenage traits, and then thrusting them into life in the early 2000s.

Throwing animated teenage duplicates of Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi, Cleopatra VII, and John F. Kennedy into a high school setting and watching these renowned personalities interact with adolescent drama and romance works due to pure absurdity. However, even when the plot of the show becomes a little more convoluted, everything still miraculously remains intact. Clone High gets ridiculous very fast, but its hilarity is tempered by a consistent focus on character development.

Clone High sports a fantastic cast all-around; nevertheless, Will Forte stood out as protagonist Abe. This particular collaboration, between him, Lord, and Miller, would later shine on the small screen once more in The Last Man on Earth. This Emmy Award-nominated post-apocalyptic comedy was created by Forte. Lord and Miller served as directors on two of the episodes and executive produced the series as a whole.

The Last Man on Earth takes an oft-rehashed apocalyptic concept and finds levity in situations that could easily tip over into stark seriousness. Part of the series hinges on stellar performances by Forte and co-stars like the extraordinary Kristen Schaal. Regardless, The Last Man on Earth is constantly engaging with existential and societal concerns, keeping its plotline buoyed and balanced if absolutely odd and undeniably surprising.

Hence, Lord and Miller’s joint resumes prove that they don’t go out of their way to endorse duds. As long as Business as Usual is anywhere close to being as original as Clone High or The Last Man on Earth, and hits a mark of both cultural relevance and audacious entertainment, we’re very happy campers.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)