It all started with a visit to Siegfried and Roy's famed Vegas act. Two years, more than 200 animators and an estimated $13 million later, Dreamworks exec Jeffrey Katzenberg's brainchild, Father of the Pride, is finally hitting the air (Tuesday, 9 pm/ET). The new NBC sitcom is a huge risk for the network, but Katzenberg promises viewers — well, adults, anyway — won't be disappointed. "We created this for an 18- to 49-year-old," he says. "It's not about checking to make sure you don't leave the 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds behind. This is purely an adult show." With lots of sex, drugs and a little Matt Lauer, he ain't kidding.
TV Guide Online: So your idea for the series came at a Siegfried and Roy show?
Katzenberg: I thought, "I wonder what it's like for those lions. What must life be like from their point of view? [They're] living in Las Vegas, trying to raise a family and earn a living. In animation, we look for those things — a way to look at our lives through a fantasy world. It allows us to take on subjects that are too difficult to do with real people. It allows us to be more controversial. Edgier. There can be parody and innuendo and satire. Things can be sophisticated in a way that even our feature films can't be.
TVGO: When did you approach Siegfried and Roy?
Katzenberg: We went to them when we had all four actors [John Goodman, Cheryl Hines, Carl Reiner and Orlando Jones]. We really tried to give them and the network a real sense of what the show was going to be — a strong presentation of all the creative elements and all the business elements because it's such a huge leap of faith.
TVGO: How did you handle things when the tiger attack happened?
Katzenberg: There was a short period of time where we all just rocked out on our heels and couldn't be particularly creative and certainly not very funny. But Siegfried kept saying, every step of the way, that this show meant so much to them. So much to Roy. Then, even more than it ever did.
TVGO: What was their reaction when they saw it?
Katzenberg: They laughed. A lot. From the beginning, the one thing they said to us was, "You must have fun with us. We are like the Odd Couple. We are always teasing each other about absolutely everything. Please do that." They kept asking us to create more contradiction. Literally, one's blond and one's dark, and every aspect of their life is as black and white as that. They are always playful with one another, always playing tricks on one another. They encouraged us to have fun with that.
TVGO: Were you worried about the bad buzz after the Upfront presentation to advertisers in May?
Katzenberg: In terms of pride, yes, it was very disappointing. I think NBC has one of the most incredible and most successful promo departments of anybody in television today, but, unfortunately, they had never worked on a show like this before, so they struggled to find a good promo. Whatever ended up being shown at the Upfronts, by their own standards and goals and ambitions, fell short. So we paid the price for that.