For fans of things automotive, the year 2022 is going to bring a little treat to the small screen. Indeed, a new TV sitcom centered on daily life at a fictitious car manufacturer will air on NBC starting in January.
American Auto centers on century-old company Payne Motors, based in Detroit. The similarities with auto giants like Ford and General Motors end there, however. Payne is decades removed from its heyday. And now it has to contend with the earth-shaking changes roiling the industry, for instance electrification and autonomous-drive technologies.
The show’s creator, Justin Spitzer, previously worked as a writer on the series The Office and he also created the series Superstore, which followed the adventures of a group of employees of a Walmart-type big box store. One of the stars of American Auto is Ana Gasteyer, familiar to fans of Saturday Night Live; she plays the new CEO of Payne Motors. Jon Barinholtz, who plays the grandson of the retired big boss of Payne Motors, also starred in Superstore.
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American Auto focuses on the work of the company's executives. Early in its development, its creator said it didn't even matter what industry the executives worked for. “The fact that it's the auto industry came later,” said Justin Spitzer. “I just wanted it to be about a big multibillion-dollar American industry.”
Jon Barinholtz said the focus on the top brass gives American Auto a different tone than Superstore, though the creators and cast tried to recreate the quirky feel in the new series.
“Just because [the execs are the] decision makers doesn't make them any more capable than the workers whose decisions they're affecting. So we see how these decisions are made, and it's not with as much thought as you would hope it is, if you're a worker,” he told the Detroit Free Press.
To give you an idea of the storylines ahead, the first episode features the development and testing of a self-driving car named Payne Ponderosa. This car has no brake pedal, with all the danger that this can bring. The second episode explores the question of whether any publicity is good publicity after a serial killer makes another company vehicle, the Payne Magellan, famous after using it in a crime. You kind of get the tone.
The first two episodes of American Auto aired on NBC last week, and the season will kick off for real on January 4. You can watch the first two installments already aired on Hulu, iTunes or Apple TV.