TV Talk: Pittsburgh native Jamie Widdoes helps evolve CBS sitcom “B Positive”


Trib Total Media TV writer Rob Owen offers some viewing tip for the week ahead.

When CBS’s “B Positive” debuted in November 2020, it was a meh sitcom with a big question mark: Once Drew (Thomas Middleditch) had a kidney from his high school mate, the kid wild Gina (Annaleigh Ashford), what was the show going to be about?

The second season of the sitcom premiered earlier this month and airs at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays on KDKA-TV. The third episode, which airs this week, gives a clearer idea of ​​the future of the series.

After Drew’s kidney transplant was over, the show’s attention turned to Gina, who inherited millions from one of her patients in the first season of the assisted living facility where she works. With that money in hand, she bought the place and this week the show features several new recurring characters, residents of the nursing home played by acting vets Hector Elizondo, Jane Seymour, Ben Vereen and Jim Beaver, who join Linda Lavin.

Completely changing the locations of a sitcom has become a specialty of executive producer Chuck Lorre. When his sitcom “Mom” started, it was a nuclear family. Within a few years, the kids and several of the cast were dumped, and the show instead focused on older women who were all in a support group. “Mom” has become a much better series because of these changes.

Lorre has the opportunity to do the same with “B Positive”. With Gina, the staff and residents of the assisted living facility now squarely in the foreground, “B Positive” won’t miss a beat if Drew ever disappears (he’s barely seen in the new opening credits sequence of the movie. ‘show and I won’t be surprised if at some point Middleditch leaves the show).

Lorre isn’t the only one with experience redesigning TV comedies. Veteran sitcom director and Pittsburgh native Jamie Widdoes, who grew up in Squirrel Hill and began his acting career (“Animal House”), directed the first three episodes of the second season of “B Positive” . He was already working on “8 Simple Rules …” when star John Ritter passed away and the series had to be reconfigured. He made “Two and a Half Men” when Charlie Sheen came out to be replaced by Ashton Kutcher. And he ultimately led the last six seasons of “Mom” as it evolved, including the final eighth season after star Anna Faris left.

“In a sense we were a driver,” Widdoes said of the “B Positive” pivot he had at the start of this season. “Every time you do a pilot, you try, as quickly as possible, to get a new cast to be willing to work with each other, to understand their own characters and to make everything transparent. on the television.”

Perhaps more than any of Lorre’s past shows, “B Positive” was always going to have to change and move beyond the original kidney transplant premise.

“It was a curiosity for many of us: where does this spectacle go once the kidney is donated? Widdoes said, attributing to Lorre the willingness to tinker with the format of the sitcom, which historically hasn’t seen the shows make the big changes it has embraced. “He’s not afraid of trying to move shows where they want to go. Because he’s so good and so successful, he gets the trust and permission of the studio and the network. Every single one of the shows I’ve been on with him has had a longer lifespan thanks to the pivots he’s been willing to do.

Widdoes, who is working with screenwriters to develop several new series for networks to consider as he has done previously with previous shows “Dave’s World” (1993-97), “Brother’s Keeper” (1998-99, ABC) and “All About the Andersons” (2003-04, The WB), will also direct episodes of CBS’s “The Neighborhood” and Fox’s “Call Me Kat” during the 2021-22 television season.

And while “B Positive” now features more movie veterans, Widdoes said it’s still a multi-generational show.

“Thematically, this is about something very specific, which is that the younger generations take care of their parents,” he said. “It’s actually a very current theme. There is a younger element to the show [among the staff of the retirement home] and it’s that dynamic of that younger element as it relates to another generation that I think will hopefully be the compelling thing about the redirect.

You can reach TV editor Rob Owen at [email protected] or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask questions about TV by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.

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