HR Is Rich Source of Comedy for Hollywood

Pilot for new Fox show features a shady heroine from HR

By Dana Wilkie Feb 9, 2017
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​Forget the tired stereotype of the HR manager who lives by the rules: Fox has announced it is working on a new comedy called "Linda From HR"—who has a dark secret that leads her to lie, spy on her company and sabotage it from within.

Fox announced in January that it's moving forward with filming the TV show's pilot episode, which revolves around a flawed heroine.

"All it takes is one bad decision to throw Linda from HR's monotonous, unfulfilled life into an exciting but dangerous tailspin of balancing work life, home life and a secret that could unravel everything," according to Deadline.com.

The secret? It appears Linda had an affair—probably with someone at work, but we don't know that much yet.

What we do know is that HR is the fodder for some recent TV or movie comedies.

judy-greer.jpg
Judy Greer was tapped to play an HR professional in comedy TV pilot 'HR'.
In the spring of 2016, it was rumored that actress Judy Greer was set to play the lead in a comedy pilot titled "HR." According to Deadline.com, the show was to revolve around Greer's character, Jane, "the overused and underappreciated head of HR for a plastic molding plant, who is caught between trying to manage her charmingly incompetent human resources department and a new eccentric CEO [played by Patton Oswalt] who dreams of bringing the New Jersey plastics plant into the future."  The network eventually decided not to pick up the series, said Lesley Goldberg, TV news editor for The Hollywood Reporter.

"Office Christmas Party," an R-rated holiday comedy that opened shortly before Christmas, focused on corporate life and HR. Kate McKinnon of "Saturday Night Live" played HR director Mary Winetoss, who presides over a holiday party that spirals out of control.

Now comes "Linda from HR," which is still in the works.  

What's so funny about human resources and why do popular TV shows and films love to hate HR?

"Are you kidding me?" asks David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, an HR outsourcing and consulting company in Norwalk, Conn. "In 30 years I have enough stories to tell [that] it would take me a week or more of non-stop conversation to tell them all. As Hollywood starts coming to realize the craziness and lunacy we in HR face each day, well, it's a wonder it's taken this long."

Part of the appeal, he said, may be that the HR role has evolved from being focused on recordkeeping and rule enforcement to being more involved in an organization's strategy. "There's more there to poke fun at," Lewis said.

Written by Geoff Barbanell and Itai Grunfeld, "Linda From HR" centers on a heroine "we all know," according to Deadline.com.

"Every office in America has a Linda from HR," writes Deadline.com. "She's good for a hallway wave, a 'How are the kids?' and, once a year, [she] buys the supermarket cake for your birthday. What you don't know is Linda, bored with her life, had an affair. Now, to keep the affair a secret from her family, Linda is forced to spy on her company, sabotaging it from the inside. A serialized comedy about Linda from HR, who, it turns out, we don't know at all."

Office Christmas Party
"Office Christmas Party" gave HR professionals nightmares (and a few laughs) in 2016.

Marc Berman is editor-in-chief for Programming Insider, a website that provides ratings, reviews and news about TV shows and other media. He said the HR department, "or anyone working within it, is good comical fodder because it is often misunderstood. HR is seen, perhaps, as the department we'd want to avoid for fear of a job loss, and the occupants in it tend to be seen as a certain type of individual, often quirky."

Workplace comedies are expected to be a hot genre this pilot season, with a few—including NBC's high school-set comedy from Seth Meyers—already in the works. Meyers will play  a "hilariously cynical Ivy League professor" in the untitled comedy, "who loses out on his dream job and goes to work as a high school biology teacher where he imposes his unorthodox teaching style and uses the kids to plot out revenge on those who wronged him," according to Deadline.com.

While Lewis said he understands the entertainment appeal of an HR comedy, he said it's hard to say why there seem to be so many of them just recently.

"I suspect it's because there is far more in the way of communication outlets that have allowed for HR and HR-related matters to be exposed and more visible," Lewis said. "Sites like Glassdoor have made it easier to see what is going on at firms, and mostly with examples of extreme behavior."

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