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A new Disney Channel niche: adults

The cable network hopes to widen its demographic with its new family-centric sitcom 'Good Luck Charlie.'

December 31, 2009|By Dawn C. Chmielewski

"[Disney] wanted us to go away from that for fear of [upsetting] people who don't believe in evolution," Vaupen said. "We're going to shoot that line but have an alternate just in case down the road we can't go that way."

Something the show did not turn away from during a recent shoot was physical comedy -- specifically, projectile vomit. Baby Charlie splatters Teddy's jacket as her big sister leans in to coo over her. And then there was a suggestion to up the stakes. "Can we take this a little bit further and have the baby spit up on her face?" Bonnett asked. "I would love to just see it right in her face."

Dan Staley, a veteran television writer and one of the show's executive producers, wondered whether that would be excessive. "Not for our audience," Bonnett replied. "You've got to give them that punch."

The show also didn't flinch when it came to an airborne baby. One scene called for the baby-toting father to trip down the stairs, momentarily launching the little one (who is safely caught moments later). Like anything else in the carefully controlled world of Disney, the comic idea was focus-tested to assure that it drew the desired response: laughter.

"There was a lot of talk about it. There were a lot of meetings about it," said Bonnett. "The way it's done. It works in execution. It scared a lot of people on the page, but it works in execution."

Even more unusual is the exchange it elicits between the husband and wife, in which she confesses to feeling overwhelmed by the conflicting demands of career and parenthood. That conversation wouldn't happen on most Disney Channel series, where the parents play an unfailingly supporting role to the tween stars.

"The mom confesses that she's overwhelmed; she's not sure she can pull this off," Bonnett said. "And just playing that scene the way we did, a very real scene between husband and wife, kind of makes this show different."

dawn.chmielewski@ latimes.com

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