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Christopher P. Duncan, Kellita Smith, Gladys Knight Headline Byron Allen's "First Family"

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 29, 2012 10:38 AM
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First Family

When he's not busy launching a new HD TV channel for African American audiences via his Entertainment Studios production/distribution company, media mogul Byron Allen (yes, THAT Byron Allen) is also busy developing primetime sitcoms to debut in the fall of 2012.

Announced first in January, Entertainment Studios ordered 104 episodes of The First Family, a sitcom about an African American family that resides in The White House (not the Obamas however, though I'm sure they were of some influence), and another 104 episodes of Mr. Box Office, a sitcom about the biggest movie star in the world who is sentenced to community service, teaching English at the "toughest" high school in America.

The studio was said to be staffing up the writing and producing crew for each new series with "top network pedigree writers and producers," with production for both set to begin this summer.

"There's a huge shortfall of quality family sitcoms for broadcast television stations, and we are 110 percent committed to filling that enormous void... Our number one priority is to deliver the highest quality content in the sitcom genre, and this initial 208-episode order is a big step in the right direction," said Byron Allen, chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios.

Each new series will be carried on multiple platforms, including broadcast, cable, and digital media starting this fall.

As for casting, Allen told THR a few months ago that, unlike most of his shows, he expects to cast some stars in lead roles to help with marketing. 

Fast-forward to today, and we've got some of those names for you: Christopher P. Duncan (The Jamie Foxx Show) plays President William JohnsonKellita Smith as First Lady Katherine JohnsonGladys Knight as his mother; Marla Gibbs as the First Lady’s mother; Paul Rodriguez as Dictator Rafael, (oh boy... I'm guessing he'll represent some unnamed South American country); and Jackee Harry as the First Lady’s sister.

The pilot episode has reportedly been made, with a fall premiere planned in broadcast syndication, cable and digital media. A "major TV network" is said to be interested in picking up the series; though no names have been mentioned yet.

The image of The First Family above is courtesy of EURWeb who add that the series will "follow the day-to-day on-goings of the President’s frenetic life inside the White House managing kids, bickering relatives and yes, the entire country."

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  • Kelea | March 31, 2012 9:58 PMReply

    That's not to say in the event that this does somehow turn into complete foolery and nonsense I don't know what to do. I'm not completely blinded by my appreciation for certain actors. :-)

  • Troy | March 30, 2012 11:15 PMReply

    The is the black straight man. Chris may not be a comic genius but a very talented thespian. Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder had a baby.

  • Kelea | March 31, 2012 9:53 PM

    Christopher Duncan definitely has more versatility/skills than people give him credit for so I'm looking forward to this for sure. This is a good look, nice cast. There's no reason not to give these new opportunities for these underused black actors (that I'm familiar with by the way so I know what they're capable of) a chance. Hope these endeavors are successful.

  • BluTopaz | March 30, 2012 1:03 AMReply

    --but with a white dog--j/k

  • sandra | March 29, 2012 11:20 AMReply

    A step in the right direction in terms of subject matter. Hopefully the execution can follow suit.

  • Akimbo | March 29, 2012 11:13 AMReply

    Will do my best to reserve judgment until I've actually seen an episode. I will say that I don't buy Christopher Duncan and Kellita Smith as a couple; unless he really changes it up in this role, I can't see the attraction going either way. Good to see all these folks working.

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