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‘Extended Family’: Mike O’Malley Addresses Season One Finale, Chances Of Renewal & Hollywood Contraction

SPOILER ALERT! This story contains plot points about the season one finale of Extended Family on NBC.

Extended Family — the sitcom from Mike O’Malley that originated as an off-cycle pilot — ended its first season Tuesday after 13 episodes. The series follows Jim (Jon Cryer) and Julia (Abigail Spencer), who, after an amicable divorce, continue to raise their kids at the family home while taking turns on who gets to stay with them. Navigating the waters of divorce and child-sharing gets more complicated for Jim when the owner of his favorite sports teams (Donald Faison) enters the picture and wins Julia’s heart.

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Here, O’Malley talks about why he made the decision to not end the season on a cliffhanger, how he feels about the chances of a pickup, and what he thinks about the contraction going on in Hollywood. O’Malley serves as showrunner and executive producer. Tom Werner, Jon Cryer, Wyc Grousbeck, Emilia Fazzalari, George Geyer, Victor Levin, Victoria Morrow, and James Widdoes also executive produce.

DEADLINE Where were you at with the show before the strike? Were you able to restart production quickly after it ended?

MIKE O’MALLEY We completed six episodes before the strike. When the strike ended, we did seven more.

DEADLINE How big is your writers room?

O’MALLEY Season one writers were me, Victor Levin, Victoria Morrow, Jim Vallely, Maggie Rowe, Gail Lerner, Jeff Greenstein, Phil Lamarr, Alexander Taussig, Ida Yazdi, Greg Garcia, Angeline Olschewski, Ajay Sahgal and Laura Kightlinger. It was a good size and you know, Lionsgate and NBC were both very supportive with wanting to get a lot of voices in there, talking about our stories.

DEADLINE Before you launched your first season, did the idea of doing a multi-cam comedy today scare the hell out of you?

O’MALLEY It did scare the hell out of me because, having acted on a sitcom for many seasons, I knew how hard the writers worked. When you’re acting on a sitcom, it is so much fun. You get to rehearse it every day without a lot of interference from the writers. But I knew how much of a relentless machine and a grind it was for the writers because they go to the run-through and then stay up late rewriting. That terrified me and rightfully so, because it is a process where you’re putting your stuff up to be seen by everybody before it’s finished, again and again. The clock is always ticking. That audience is coming Friday night and you better have something ready. It’s a particular skill that many people have and are very successful at. It wasn’t something that I had as much experience in doing, even given how long I’ve been an actor and a writer in showbiz.

And yet you know, I have friends who have no idea that this show exists. They’ve never even heard of it. It’s on NBC. It’s on Tuesday night at 8:30. I remember when we all knew what was on and you’d have to have an opinion about a show.

DEADLINE You made the decision in the first season not to have the characters played by Donald Faison and Abigail Spencer get married. Was that always the plan or did the strike change anything?

O’MALLEY Before the strike, we were looking to end on a rehearsal dinner the night before they got married. But we wanted to slow that down a little bit. We thought if we’re lucky enough to get a second season, leading up toward that would be a better idea.

DEADLINE Your finale was not a cliffhanger. What does this mean going forward, should the show get a pick up?

O’MALLEY No. My last show, Heels, ended on a cliffhanger. [The show was canceled by Starz in September]. There was a possibility of maybe getting four or five additional episodes [of Extended Family] if things after the strike didn’t get picked up. It really didn’t put us in a position to end on a cliffhanger because we didn’t know up until the last minute that this [Tuesday’s episode] was going to be this season’s last episode. Obviously, I’m still talking to you. We’re promoting the show. We’re optimistic about a second season but I’ve been around long enough to know that 80 million things could happen between now and then. Yes, we had talked before the strike about ending an episode at the rehearsal dinner, then something goes south and then wow, is this going to completely blow this relationship up? After the strike, we were like, we can’t do that right now.

I think our ratings have been good. But put it this way … If we were going to be renewed, we’d know. Right? Everyone in our business knows how hard it is to find stories, write stories, write episodes. We’re waiting just like everybody else. The cast is unbelievable. We also have great kids. Everyone knows how hard it is to get a cast that feels like a family and is good at making sitcoms. So I’m optimistic.

DEADLINE If you go to a second season, what changes can we expect?

O’MALLEY I think Lenny Clarke [as Bobby Kearney] would definitely become a series regular. The show is going to have to expand so we will see recurring and maybe other series regular characters at Donald’s workplace, Jon’s workplace, Abigail’s workplace.

DEADLINE We’ve been doing a series about Hollywood contraction. From your perspective, what are you’re seeing with your fellow writers, your buddies out there? Are they worried about the lack of work?

O’MALLEY I’m hearing is exactly what you’re hearing. There are less shows being made. People who made shows over the last three or four years may have found the work extremely rewarding and they got compensated for the work. They loved the work. Yet, there was no way in that atmosphere that the work would get seen, because there’s just too much out there. So I would rather do the work and have more work and hope that somehow people see it. People are worried about working hard on something that is sort of like a tree falling in the forest and no one sees it. There was a time when if you broke through, you got a job on on network or you got a film that was going to be in theaters, people would know about it. People would know about it because there were only so many things breaking through. There was only so many things to watch.

This city has changed as more and more work has gone away. You used to move to New York or Hollywood to work in show business. I raised a family here and I love Los Angeles. But it’s harder and harder for people to live here and work here. I spent a lot of time working in Vancouver and Atlanta. I love those people there. But what I really love about a sitcom is that I’m at home. I may be may not be walking in until three o’clock in the morning, but I’m waking up and having coffee in my house and I’m driving over to the valley and we’re making a television show at the same lot where I made Yes, Dear. Now the odds are that you’re not going to be doing it in Los Angeles where you’ve moved and you’ve raised your kids. I think it’s better for everybody if we’re able to be at home even if they’re working hard. Yes. That’s one of the reasons I want to be doing a sitcom.

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