NBC Wants Your Sitcom Ideas and Will Maybe Give You Credit

NBC, the former king of comedy who will now do something (anything) for a hit, needs your help to create its next huge hit/spectacular failure! The network is crowdsourcing its next few projects with a new Comedy Playground initiative, which means that you could totally be a part of the next 30 Rock. Or, more likely, the next Sean Saves the World.

In a buzzword-heavy press release distributed Wednesday, NBC touted the program as "a grassroots initiative designed to invest in new cutting-edge comedy through a groundbreaking national campaign." Well, it's pretty exciting. But not quite "cutting-edge" exciting. The Comedy Playground, for all intents and purposes, is a website with nary a jungle gym in sight. And the "grassroots initiative" isn't so much a comedy scouting program as a contest.

Interested parties are invited to submit a (verbal, on-camera) pitch for a new show, five to ten minutes of sample material, and a resume. If enough if the network's people like an idea, it will become one of ten semifinalists in the contest. The semifinalists will receive funding to film a half-hour pilot, which will then be viewed by a panel of people you've heard of, like Amy Poehler, Jason Bateman, Mindy Kaling, and, yeah, Sean Hayes. Two winners will get full broadcast orders for their shows. NBC will then submit the loser pile to the internet masses, who will vote on one more pilot to be turned into a digital series for NBC.

They really do sound like they have good intentions. Although people who are already represented by agents or working in the business are welcome, the FAQ makes clear that those people have to follow the same rules as everyone else. In fact, the site claims, "We assume that most entrants will not have representation." While contest winners may have to relocate to Los Angeles, the Comedy Playground is open to people all over the country. The goals here are noble: inject the industry with some new blood, invite people whose backgrounds may not be in showbiz to give it a shot, and find unexpected new material.

It's that last bit that might actually be a concern. According to the contest's "ideas and misappropriation waiver," entrants must agree to the following:

By entering the Contest and submitting a Submission, Contestants agree to and acknowledge the following: You understand that although you may believe your Submission to be unique and novel, there may be preexisting ideas, concepts, or proposals that are similar to your Submission. You recognize that other persons, including NBC's own employees, may have submitted to NBC or others, or made public, or may in the future originate and submit or make public, similar or identical ideas, concepts, or proposals that NBC may have the right to use, and you understand that you will not be entitled to any compensation because of NBC's use of such similar or identical ideas, concepts, or proposals in any manner. You understand and agree that NBC's use of material containing features or elements similar or identical to those contained in your Submission will not obligate NBC to negotiate with you or entitle you to any compensation if NBC determines that it has an independent legal right to use that other material for any reason (for example, because the features or elements are not new or novel, were not originated by you, or were or may hereafter be independently created and submitted by other persons, including NBC employees).

If you don't think about it too hard, this makes some sense: not every idea is going to be a special and unique snowflake, and the company is covering its ass in case someone comes up with the same totally unoriginal idea that NBC already rushed into production a month earlier. But take a closer look: similar or identical. May in the future originate. The wording, while certainly able to get NBC out of any stupid lawsuits, could also get it out of some much more valid ones. It wouldn't be hard to claim that an NBC employee came up with the same exact pitch for a cool new show as a contest entrant.

Entering the Comedy Playground could be your shot at comedy-writer stardom–or it could just set you up to be the next penniless "inspiration" behind a hit sitcom. The competition opens May 1. May the odds be ever in your favor.

[Image via Getty]