Romantic comedy on TV has a problem. Jennifer Finnigan, a star of NBC's new sitcom "Committed," puts it this way: "It's nine years of sexual tension, the 10th year they get together...

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Romantic comedy on TV has a problem.

Jennifer Finnigan, a star of NBC’s new sitcom “Committed,” puts it this way: “It’s nine years of sexual tension, the 10th year they get together, and then in the 11th year, the show gets canceled.”

The creators of “Committed,” DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler, hope they’ve solved that problem. The couple at the center of the show, social worker Marni (Finnigan) and underemployed record-store clerk/genius Nate (Josh Cooke), get together right away. Their challenge will be keeping their various neuroses at bay enough to realize what a good thing they have.

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“We’ve always said that this is not about will they or won’t they,” says Heisler, who has worked on “Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown” and “Three Sisters” with Heline (they co-created the latter show). “They will. … The point is that these are two characters who are just atypical. The problems they have in their relationship aren’t ones that anyone else is really having.”

Consider: When Nate is in a public place, he’s constantly checking the emergency exits in case of disaster, and his apartment is a monument to obsessiveness that makes the average attic look airy. The guileless Marni wonders why Nate gets upset when she brings a friend along for their first official date.

“He’s a really good person who just gets caught in these awful situations,” Cooke, a relative newcomer to showbiz, says of his character. “… He tries to do the right thing and genuinely cares about the people he comes in contact with, but he also comes from this kind of ridiculously insane family. So he’s got that pressure to think of — he’s just thinking all the time, a million thoughts a second.”

On TV



“Committed”

premieres at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on NBC (KING).


Marni, meanwhile, pretty much lives on her own plane.

“She has the kindest of hearts, the best of intentions,” says Finnigan, late of “Crossing Jordan” and the soap “The Bold and the Beautiful.” “What I do adore about her is that even though no one else might understand her logic, it’s perfectly logical to her.”

Then there’s the dying clown (Tom Poston) who lives in the walk-in closet in Marni’s apartment, which seems like only so much sitcom wackiness, but for the fact that it’s based on something Heisler and Heline observed while attending New York University.

“We had a friend who sublet[ed] an apartment above where ‘The Fantasticks’ was playing,” Heisler recalls. “And one day the door to this walk-in closet opened up an this old guy in a bathrobe walked out. …

“We’d go over and visit, and he’d just sort of wander through. We’d try to say hi, but he really wouldn’t have anything to do with us. We thought, should we put that in or will people just think it’s the weirdest thing in the world? But it’s a true story, so we thought, it’s got to go in.”

As it turns out, NBC had no problems with the dying clown. Casting the two leads, though, was more of a chore. Cooke landed his part early on in the audition process, but Heline and Heisler say they saw dozens of actresses before finding Finnigan.

“The amazing thing is that they had not done a sitcom before this,” Heline says. “And the very first thing we did [after the show was cast] was sit down and have a table read. It was the best table read I’ve ever been to; it was incredible. They just had it in the palms of their hands.”