NBC's back in the sitcom bar business with 'Abby's"

  • A military veteran (Natalie Morales) runs a backyard bar in "Abby's."

    A military veteran (Natalie Morales) runs a backyard bar in "Abby's." Courtesy of NBC

By Jay Bobbin
Posted3/25/2019 6:00 AM

"Abby's" has echoes of another NBC sitcom, "Cheers," and its makers don't mind comparisons.

Premiering Thursday, March 28, the show casts Natalie Morales -- working again with "Parks and Recreation's" Michael Schur, an executive producer of the series along with "Abby's" creator Josh Malmuth -- in the title role of a military veteran who comfortably operates an unlicensed backyard bar with a host of regular customers. "Comfortably" applies, anyway, until the site's conservative new owner (Nelson Franklin) shows up with his own ideas for her business. Neil Flynn ("The Middle") and Jessica Chaffin ("Big Mouth") also are in the ensemble cast.


"I was a bartender for a while, and a server, as I think a lot of actors have been," Morales says, "so actually, this was very endearing to me and it made me very appreciative. I happened to be wearing the same set of Converse that I would wear when I was bartending (and would remember) going, 'Oh, brother, when am I going to get out of this?' And then I was back in it (with 'Abby's'), but I was getting paid a little better and I looked better doing it. So, it was good."

Abby (Natalie Morales) chats with some of her bar regulars (Jessica Chaffin and Neil Flynn) in "Abby's."
Abby (Natalie Morales) chats with some of her bar regulars (Jessica Chaffin and Neil Flynn) in "Abby's." - Courtesy of NBC

Interestingly, "Abby's" is filmed before an on-site audience situated outdoors along with the performers. "The things we had to worry about were airplanes and helicopters and sirens being noisy," Morales muses of potential interference. "A fun fact is we shot this on Tuesday nights, as opposed to many multi-cams that shoot on a Friday night. We shot on the Universal lot, and Halloween Horror Nights was going on (at the Universal Studios attraction), and you would have heard the screaming. We avoided that, which was nice."

Another aspect of the Abby character figures into some of the stories more prominently than in others. "I think it's the first time there's an openly and casually bisexual lead on network TV, definitely (in a) comedy," notes Morales. "We talked about it a lot, and not only is there a lack of representation in that department, but -- especially where I'm obviously playing a Latina woman -- I always like when it's not about that, when I'm just a person."

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Also an alum of "Santa Clarita Diet," "The Grinder" and "Trophy Wife," Morales adds, "I look for stories about marginalized people that are not about how they are marginalized, because we have seen that. It's important to say, 'This is a regular person, and you probably know someone just like this, and this is just them living their everyday lives.' And yes, she may date women. She also dates men. So what? We are all multifaceted people. It's time we see that on television."

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Premieres at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28, on NBC

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