“This is my hometown, and the people I grew up with,” Bless the Harts creator Emily Spivey told TV critics Wednesday at TCA, after a table read of Act I of the Fox animated series’ pilot episode.
“Everything I write secretly takes place in North Carolina,” she said, including the ostrich who plays a role in the pilot. Residents of High Point, NC, the small mill town in which she says she grew up, included a man who tried to raise the large flight-less birds.
“They hated him. All the ostrich,” she clarified.
In September, Fox made its first animated series order in a couple of years, giving a 13-episode straight-to-series pickup to Bless the Harts, a half-hour comedy from The Last Man on Earth co-executive producer Spivey and executive producers Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Seth Cohen. The network describes the series as a look at a group of broke southerners always struggling for the American Dream of status and wealth, but already are rich in friends, family and laughter.
Its voice cast is led by Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Maya Rudolph (The Good Place), Jillian Bell (Saturday Night Live) and Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors). The series is produced by 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Lord Miller.
Spivey said it was important that viewers laugh with her characters, not at them.
Gold standard of getting it right, Spivey said, is Andy Griffith Show. She also named Fox’s King of the Hill, whose creator Mike Judge is letting her Spivey use the name Mega Lo Mart for Bless the Hart’s big box store.
The animation style is intended to be in the spirit of King of the Hill, which Spivey described as “loose,” “naturalistic” and “folksy.”
Her parents, she said, were very supportive of her, as are show characters Wayne Edwards (Baerinholtz) and Jenny (Wiig) toward their artistic daughter Violet (Bell), who “don’t quite understand what her thing is, but they’re going to support it as much as they can.”
It’s Fox’s first animated series to be female-centric, and first to be female-created and -run.
What took so long?
“Maybe someone had to look down and notice me,” Spivey speculated. “Maybe my prayers were answered.”
Rudolph, who plays family matriarch Betty Hart, said her southern accent comes of sharing SNL office space with Spivey, describing it as a cross of Spivey and her mother.
One TV critic wondered when adults took over animation. Rudolph insisted her kids love The Simpsons and that this new series is appropriate for kids to watch, then thought about it a second and acknowledged maybe not the bit about the ostriches “biting Wayne’s dick and balls.”
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