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ABC picks up pair of comedies from Friends alums

ABC has picked up a pair of pilots written by former workers on the hit sitcom Friends, reports Variety.

Andrew Reich, who worked on Friends from 1998 to 2004, will serve as writer and executive producer of Pearl, while Scott Silveri, who worked on both Friends as well as Friends spin-off projects with Matthew Perry and Matt Leblanc, wrote Speechless.

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Pearl is a single-camera comedy that follows the story of a “larger-than-life” mom who discovers she has cancer and focuses all of her energy on making sure she controls the family’s life before she passes on. It hails from ABC Studios.

Speechless looks at a special needs child who happens to be great at dealing with the challenges that life faces him (or her?) but also excels at inspiring new ones. It, too, is a single-camera comedy. Jake Kasdan (Fresh Off the Boat, New Grit) and Melvin Mar (Fresh Off the Boat) will executive produce alongside Silveri. The show hails from 20th Century Fox.

It will be interesting to see the approach for both given that they appear to deal with rather heavy subjects. Hopefully these upcoming sitcoms can find some balance between the drama and the laughs.

The two pilots join Downward Dog, the only other comedy that has been picked up to fill ABC’s 2016-2017 drama-filled primetime lineup.

Having been involved with one of the most successful and iconic comedies of the past few decades may put extra pressure on Reich and Silveri to deliver the same with these two new projects. That said, Silveri’s past attempts at continuing to capitalize on the Friends train has thus far delivered lackluster results: Go On, released in 2012 and starring former Friends star Matthew Perry, only lasted for a single season; and Matt Leblanc’s Friends spin-off Joey, which aired immediately following the end of Friends in 2004, just managed to crank out two seasons before being given the hook.

Speechless and Pearl both appear to be drastic departures from Friends when it comes to the approach and storylines.

Reich, meanwhile, has had his hand in a number of projects since the end of Friends, including executive producing five episodes of comedy sitcom Rules of Engagement, and working as a consulting producer on a number of other projects, including the TV series Worst Week and Romantically Challenged.