FOX has had good fortune this season with the success of "New Girl" so hopes are undoubtedly high that the network can keep the comedy streak going with tonight's latest addition, "I Hate My Teenage Daughter." In the sitcom, created by Sherry Bilsing-Graham and Ellen Kreamer, BFFs (and fellow divorcees) Annie ("My Name Is Earl" alum Jaime Pressly) and Nikki (two-time Tony-winner Katie Finneran) realize their unruly teen daughters are exactly the kind of girls who tormented them growing up. As they try to navigate the scary world of parenting, they also find themselves learning a lesson or two along the way as well as stirring up laughs.
Our Jim Halterman rang up Bilsing-Graham and Kreamer earlier this week to chat about the casting of Pressley and Finneran, making sure the teens aren't so unlikable that viewers will be turned off and, despite being a comedy, how will the show handle teen issues.
Jim Halterman: Jaime and Katie have such a great comedic chemistry. How did the casting come together?
Sherry Bilsing-Graham: We actually had auditioned Katie first and we found our Nikki before we found our Annie and just loved her. Actually, Peter Roth had seen her in "Promises, Promises" [the Broadway show with Kristin Chenoweth & Sean Hayes] and recommended her. She lives in New York [and] having just had a baby, literally a week before, flew in and read for us. She was fabulous. And then we heard Jaime Pressly was available and they came and auditioned together and they were just so great together, the chemistry and the way they operate are just... it works together really beautifully.
Ellen Kreamer: And they're very generous with one another. They're very supportive and they love to see the other succeed, which is great for us because it just makes for a really friendly, happy set.
JH: Knowing Jaime's work, especially from 'My Name is Earl' you'd almost think that she could play Nikki but she's playing a role that's a little different than what we've seen her in. Was that one of the appeals for her and for casting her in that role?
SBG: It was one of the appeals, especially, I know, for her. She really latched onto the character that she was raised in kind of a strict environment and she was the together one with insecurities but it was different than what she had done before. So she wasn't that outrageous dressed and she has a lot of heart in this show.
EK: Both women are so talented with Jaime showing a side that I don't think we've seen her do before, which is she's extremely charming in a kind of a real way in watching this naive woman negotiate the world.
JH: Jaime and Katie's characters are also growing up in many ways. They're not these polished moms that know how to make everything right. Is that part of the fun in writing the show?
SBG: Most of the moms I meet are not... none of them have a set tried and true way. We're just kind of flying by the seat of our pants and each moment you're trying something different and hoping it works. Just like I think a lot of people get upset about the title. It's like, of course they don't hate their teenage daughters but it's frustrating as hell to raise a teenage daughter.
EK: Or any kid.
SBG: At any given moment when your frustration's at its highest, you may think in your mind or whisper to a friend, 'God, I hate this person at this moment.'
JH: I want to ask about Sophie (Kristi Lauren) and MacKenzie (Aisha Dee). Has it been a challenge to not make them too unlikable so we as viewers don't even like or care about them?
EK: I mean from episode to episode it's kind of like real life. One day your kid is as good as gold, and you're like, "Oh my God. Look what I did. Look what I raised." Then the next day, you want to throttle them. So I think that's kind of what the episodes are showing. Sometimes the girls will be behaving normally, I mean, in the way you would want them to.
SBG: But hopefully parents will watch it and think, 'Do you know what? I'm not alone.' We all make mistakes but in the end we're a family. They love each other and everyone's going to be okay, you know? But don't say, 'It's just like 'Modern Family,'' because I would not compare my show to that show.
JH: Now, Annie has this mad crush on her former brother-in-law, Jack (Kevin Rahm). Where is that going and would she ever backslide with her ex, Matt (Erik Sheffer Stevens)?
SBG: It's the ultimate obstacle in the way of two people that are attracted to each other just by given the nature of their relationship. The ex-brother-in-law is impossible but, yeah, there's an attraction there and we do focus on that in some upcoming episodes. I guess we feel like she married the wrong brother but he's the father figure in Sophie's life, which she could use right now.
EK: I do think down the road we'd love to see her and Matt have, at the very least, a night, that kind of thing where it's like that guy that got your heart beating that you can't quite let go of.
JH: Are we going to meet the parents of Annie and Nikki? I want to know who raised these two women!
EK: We've talked about it and we totally agree. I think it'd be so much fun to see all of their parents because in your mind you think, "Who in the hell are the parents going to be who raised this poor Annie," you know? We'd absolutely want to do that.
JH: What else can you tease about what's coming up on the show?
EK: Mark Consuelos is coming in to be Annie's love interest and he's fabulous and funny and charming, and wonderful. Wendi McLendon-Covey is going to come back and Nikki's going to go up against her. That's her old nemesis from the pilot, from high school.
SBG: And we have Matt, and then some of the dads stepping up again. Matt is screwing up at a school dance, and then coming back to make it right with his daughter, which is very sweet.
JH: With teenagers come issues whether it's drugs or sex or other things. How will you deal with those things since this is a comedy?
SBG: A lot of times we try to do it with sort of a catalyst, but then what happens is how do the moms deal with it.
EK: We have an episode coming up about a teenage pregnancy, not that the girls get pregnant. We have a different kind of bend on it but it's issues that moms and kids are talking about.
SBG: Or going to a party where they know there's going to be alcohol, and we deal with that. We deal with teen dating and things going too fast. The stuff that parents are struggling with right now.
EK: And also the fact that kids are so hooked into technology and the Internet and willing to share personal information about themselves with thousands of people but not with their own family.
SBG: And not realizing what the repercussions of that are, you know? So it's just trying to keep the family in tact when you have all of these other distractions of teen life, especially now in the kind of media-savvy world that they live in, you know?
JH: Is premiering this late in the fall a plus or a minus for you?
SBG: It was presented to us in a way that we liked, which was you have all of these new shows coming out in the fall and you get kind of caught up in that whole frenzy of people promoting, and pooh-poohing, or liking those shows that come on in the first onslaught. And then, we just kind of casually slip in after baseball on FOX. And it's such a great time slot I mean, after 'X Factor.' We couldn't be happier.
"I Hate My Teenage Daughter" premieres tonight after "The X-Factor" at 9:30/8:30c on FOX.