- Associated Press - Monday, October 13, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - After dating Jake for six long years, Annie figured he would pop the question during their romantic island getaway.

He didn’t, and when they return home, Annie throws a comic hissy-fit fit over her ringless state - at the very moment Jake was poised to put a ring on her finger.

Thus begins “Marry Me,” a new NBC sitcom starring Casey Wilson as the lovable but dizzy Annie and Ken Marino as her level-headed if hopelessly smitten boyfriend Jake.

Premiering Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT, “Marry Me” reunites Wilson with creator-executive producer David Caspe, in whose former series, “Happy Endings,” Wilson played a prominent role.

But in truth, Wilson and Caspe had never stopped being an item since “Happy Endings” left the air in spring 2013 after three seasons. Back then, they were dating. In May, they tied the knot.

Now Caspe gets to draw on domestic life with his vivacious leading lady while appointing Marino (“Eastbound & Down” and “Childrens Hospital”) as his onscreen stand-in.

“Annie’s character is very much inspired by Casey,” says Caspe (the “e” is silent), “and some of the dynamic between her and Ken’s character is the same as our dynamic.”

That becomes clear during a rollicking lunch as they fete a reporter at Hollywood’s Paramount Pictures studios, where “Marry Me” is produced.

Over salad in the posh Paramount dining room, Caspe recalls that he first met Wilson, then best known as a “Saturday Night Live” alum, when, late in the “Happy Endings” audition grind, she read for the role of Penny, one of that show’s gang of six Chicago chums.

“There were a couple of actresses who were better than her for the part,” jokes Caspe. “But I wanted to make love to her, and I thought the best way to do that was to give her the part.”

They remained just friends during the first season of “Happy Endings,” opting for discretion. Then they ramped up to dating secretly.

“Then we started dating for real,” Caspe says. “And the cast was supercool about it. Then the show got canceled.”

Soon Caspe was developing a new show.

“It was perfect for Casey,” he says, “and luckily she wanted to do it.”

The fact that “Marry Me” was inspired by real life gave it extra appeal - or so Caspe hoped.

“When I went from network to network to pitch it, I would say one of the great things about this show is that it’s going to mimic my life, since I’m about to propose to my girlfriend. I used that as a sales tool. So network presidents and development executives and assistants knew we going to be engaged before Casey knew.”

“The entire TOWN knew before I did,” she says, rolling her eyes.

Not that she hadn’t made such wishes known.

“I had mentioned in a friendly, fun fashion, that I’d LOVE to get engaged by the end of the summer. And by ‘end of summer’ I meant Sept. 1.”

By late spring of 2013, she knew Caspe was up to something.

“He’s like, ‘I think we should stay home in three months and watch TV.’ If I said something like, ‘I’m thinking of having dinner with a friend,’ he would say, ‘But not on Aug. 30 - right?’”

“I guess I doth protested too much,” he admits.

So how did it go on Aug. 30?

“I got her family together with a caterer to cook dinner for all of us, and had everybody hidden in the other room,” a strategy that parallels the “Marry Me” scene. “But I failed to plan what I was going to say. So I stumbled through what can only be described as a series of cliches. Then I kissed her and she said yes. Then, deciding I hadn’t said enough, I got back down on my knee and said a little more. I did not shine.”

“It was very beautiful,” insists Wilson. “It worked very well.”

Fast forward to the whirl of events awaiting the couple this past May.

“The show got picked up on a Thursday,” Caspe recalls. “Then I went to my bachelor party in Vegas. That Sunday, I flew to New York for the (TV network) upfronts. Our wedding was the next weekend in California. Then we flew to our honeymoon for two weeks. Then we came back, and the very next day I started the writers room.”

The “Marry Me” writers room, a golf cart-ride away on the Paramount lot, was soon outfitted with the necessary couches, sprawling whiteboards for outlining future episodes, dart board and remote-controlled fart machine. With his team, Caspe set to work coming up with funny stuff for Annie and Jake to say and do.

“To have such strong comedians in the lead roles makes my job a lot easier,” Caspe says. “There’s no one I would rather write for than Casey. And Ken is so funny - and a wonderful lovemaker!”

Their characters will probably marry in this year’s season finale. But Caspe already has his sights on how the show will go for years beyond the nuptials: “We just want to have fun and figure things out together,” he says.

Sort of like its real-life newlyweds.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at https://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore




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