Sunday, June 04, 2000

Writer models 'M.Y.O.B.' set after Loveland alma mater




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        Ask Ann Donahue what she's been up to lately, and she'll say: M.Y.O.B.

        Mind Your Own Business.

        It's nothing personal. That's the name of the former Loveland resident's new NBC series premiering 9:30 p.m. Tuesday (Channels 5, 22).

        Lauren Graham (Townies, Conrad Bloom, NewsRadio) and Katharine Towne (She's All That) star in M.Y.O.B. as an aunt-niece odd couple at a California high school that looks like Ms. Donahue's alma mater, now Loveland Middle School, 801 S. Lebanon Road.

[photo] KATHARINE TOWNE STARS IN M.Y.O.B.
(NBC photo)
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        Ms. Donahue wanted a 1960s look for the fictional high school, so she replicated the drab pea-green masonry brick walls, the hallways lined with double-deck lockers and the tall cafeteria windows from photos taken last year by her parents, Owen and Ann.

        “The people at NBC loved the (set) colors and the architecture,” says Ms. Donahue, a 1973 Loveland High School graduate.

        M.Y.O.B. is her first comedy after 20 years of writing one-hour dramas for the best producers in the business: David E. Kelley (Picket Fences), Steven Spielberg (High Incident), Steven Bochco (Murder One), John Wells (China Beach) and Stephen J. Cannell (21 Jump Street).         But M.Y.O.B., created by Don Roos (Single White Female, The Opposite of Sex), isn't your typical sitcom.

        There's no laugh track or studio audience, like ABC's canceled Sports Night. And M.Y.O.B. is filled with sarcastic voice-over comments from Riley (Ms. Towne), the street-smart runaway teen whose search for her mother brings her to Aunt Opal, a school administrator. (The title comes from the love-hate relationship of these two lonely souls.)

ON THE AIR

What: M.Y.O.B.

When: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Channels 5, 22

        M.Y.O.B. opens with Riley remarking about the unblemished teen faces on TV today: “Have you ever seen teen-age skin like this? Can you believe this crap?”

        She sums up the pilot this way: “I bet you were hoping this wasn't going to be the typical TV show. But I mean, come on, it's the whole fish-out-of-water, odd-couple, unrequited-love combo platter you get most every night on every channel. So you don't want to watch? That's OK. Law & Order is bound to be on somewhere.”

        “We've all grown up on TV,” says Ms. Donahue about the many TV references in M.Y.O.B. “It's on in our houses all the time. We see more of TV than some of the people in the house.”

        Riley's observations, Ms. Donahue says, areno different from what many viewers are saying.

        “We sit home and watch TV and make really snide cracks — and Riley says them out loud,” Ms. Donahue says. On the other hand, Aunt Opal may think such things, but never speak them.

        “Don sees Riley and Opal as a great comedy team. One will always say what she thinks, and the other is trying to shut the window before someone hears it,” says Ms. Donahue, who learned to write scripts by sneaking into M*A*S*H in the early 1980s.         Mr. Roos says he thinks of the series as “a small 30-minute independent movie every week,” not a sitcom. “It's a great platform just to run my mouth to a large audience,” he told TV critics at the January press tour.

        “Movies are very hit-or-miss ... but TV is a huge audience,” says the filmmaker, who is completing a feature called Bounce starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck. (He calls them “Benneth,” Ms. Donahue reports.)

[photo] THE CAST OF M.Y.O.B.
(NBC photo)
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        Since filming ended in December, Ms. Donahue has been editing the shows and waiting for a premiere date. She expected to be on in March after TV Guide critic Matt Roush called it one of the three best midseason series, “nervier and more distinctive than your typical NBC comedy.”

        But NBC went with Daddio, Battery Park and God, the Devil and Bob, then quickly canceled all but Daddio. TV Guide's other two favorites, Wonderland (ABC) and The Beat (UPN), also were short-lived.

        “I'd rather be on now, than be on at the wrong time and get killed in the ratings,” she says. “We're fortunate. We're coming on at a time (summer) when we don't have competition, and following Will & Grace. That's a perfect fit for us.”

        Most viewers won't know the seven episodes were filmed last year. “When people are watching at home, they don't when the shows were done,” she says. “If it's on, and they see it and like it, they'll come back.”         Ms. Donahue hopes enough viewers keep coming back to M.Y.O.B. this summer for NBC to order more shows for the fall TV season starting Oct. 2, after the Summer Olympics. “If NBC wants us to produce more by October, we'll be ready,” she says.

        That would be a problem for WB, which has announced Ms. Graham as the star of Gilmore Girls, a new 8 p.m. Thursday drama. M.Y.O.B. has first dibs on Ms. Graham for fall, and the WB knows that, Ms. Donahue says.

        After all these years, Ms. Donahue says she's surprised to be producing a comedy instead of a drama. She already has an idea for another single-camera half-hour comedy about several women.

        “This is all a dream come true,” she says. “And believe me, I didn't sleep through it. It was all hard work. But anything is.”

        John Kiesewetter is Enquirer TV/radio critic. Write: 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax: 768-8330.        



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