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Norman Lear Has Been Pitching ‘Guess Who Died’ For Years, and the Comedy Finally Has a Network Home

Lear is working with Peter Tolan ("Rescue Me") on the senior citizen sitcom, which now has a pilot production commitment.

Norman LearA Conversation with Norman Lear and 'One Day at a Time', Los Angeles, USA - 19 Jun 2017

Norman Lear

Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock

It took one day at a time, but Norman Lear’s long-gestating comedy project “Guess Who Died” finally has a home: NBC.

The Peacock network has given a pilot production commitment to the single-camera comedy, which Lear recently re-developed with Peter Tolan.

Set in a retirement village, “Guess Who Died” has been in the works for at least seven years. Lear had pitched the show around town several times, and expressed dismay that the show wouldn’t get made because of its focus on older characters.

But “Guess Who Died” gained momentum after Lear, at age 95, earned raves for the recent successful remake of his 1970s comedy “One Day at a Time,” executive produced by Gloria Calderon Kellett and and Mike Royce. That show comes from Sony Pictures TV, as does “Guess Who Died.”

Lear managed to keep “Guess Who Died” alive by organizing a table read of the script in 2016 at the Austin Film Festival – which was filmed by the newsmagazine “CBS Sunday Morning.” The New York Times also chronicled Lear’s efforts to get it made in a short documentary.

But the momentum for the show really took off after Emmy winner Tolan (“The Larry Sanders Show”) joined the project. Tolan is known for both comedy and drama; his other credits include “Outsiders,” “The Job,” “The Jim Gaffigan Show” and “Rake.” Besides “Larry Sanders,” he also won an Emmy for “Murphy Brown.”

Here’s the latest logline, which is rather vague: “Norman Lear has shown that the secret to longevity is to continue learning and growing at every point in life, but especially when society expects you to slow down! Based on his personal experiences and in partnership with the authentic, irreverent voice of Peter Tolan, ‘Guess Who Died’ is a humorous and inspiring look at the shared joys and challenges we all experience at any stage of life.”

Lear and Tolan will executive produce along with Brent Miller; Sony, the Cloudland Company and Act III Prods. are behind the show. Here’s a taste of it from that 2016 table read:

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