A half-hour comedy about a woman named Reba who splits from her longtime husband after she learns he's been cheating on her? Yes, Reba McEntire's new ABC series Malibu Country sounds a tad (read: a lot) like her old series, The CW's Reba.
But the show's executive producers, including Reba executive producer Kevin Abbott, insist this is not just a redo. "We don't just want to do the old Reba," Abbott told reporters Friday at ABC's Television Critics Association fall TV previews, "which I wish had gone on longer, but The CW was smarter."
Reba followed a woman who "has to deal with her ex-husband and the woman he cheated with." However, Malibu Country, takes it a step further, following the woman when she leaves Nashville post-divorce and heads to Malibu to start fresh. "How do you start life over anew when the entire culture is alien to you," Abbott says of the series' central question. "Everything you know doesn't really hold true out here."
The one thing that has stayed the same? McEntire is still "annoying," Abbott jokes.
Coincidentally, Malibu Country is at least partially inspired by McEntire's own experience moving her family from Nashville to Los Angeles to shoot Reba — a move that "devastated" her homesick 11-year-old son. McEntire recalled one memorable fish-out-of-water experience when her family brought bologna sandwiches to an outdoor, but fancy, school event only to learn that sack lunches were considered déclassé.
While co-star Sara Rue admitted to watching countless hours of The Real Housewives of Orange County to research her character, Malibu native Kim, McEntire's on-screen mom, played by Lily Tomlin, also found root in reality for her role as Lillie Mae. "Somehow I've come full circle," Tomlin said of playing a Nashville native and working with a real-life Nashville native. In addition, Tomlin's brother lives in the capital of country music, and both of her parents are buried there. "I understand that culture," she said.
"This will probably be my last project before I go to the motion picture home," Tomlin joked, "and I think it's appropriate."
Malibu Country premieres on Friday, Nov. 2 at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.