Looking for a way to launch a Web series for TV One, Ashley Grayson and her colleagues didn't look far for material or talent. The hilarity of day-to-day life at the office yielded ample material. Some staffers thought they'd do just fine in front of the camera.
So, Grayson, a writer for TVOneOnline.com, began developing a concept that she eventually pitched as "The Office" meets "Girlfriends," referring to a cross between the NBC hit and the comedy about four African-American women that aired on UPN and CW.
"We thought why not base it on the 20something crowd who happen to be coworkers -- that's where some of the funniest stuff happens," Grayson said.
Payne Brown, then head of digital media at TV One, gave the initial green light to what is now "The Cube Life." And Johnathan Rodgers, CEO of the African-American-targeted network, gave the final OK.
Why not? It wouldn't cost him much.
Grayson and 11 colleagues worked for free, writing and producing "Cube Life," a title that refers to office workspaces, a perfect place for eavesdropping. "Strangers go from co-workers to friends and ultimately become family," according to a show brief.
Now on TV One's site, "Cube Life's" 12-minute pilot stars eight network staffers from departments as diverse as operations, affiliate sales and human resources. Others based in the Silver Spring, Md. office labored behind the scenes.
The initial "Cube Life" episode has roots in Grayson, the creator and executive producer, coming to work one day and a concerned colleague commenting she didn't look well.
"We just stretched the story out to something else," Grayson said.
In the Webisode, Grayson plays the central role; her young female colleagues believe her character is pregnant when they find out she was in the emergency room with nausea. Without confirming, they decide to throw her a baby shower.
Turns out -- to their embarrassment -- there's no bun in the oven.
The production -- set in an entertainment company -- employs a faux documentary style, à la "The Office," where characters turn to the camera and offer some side comments or knowing looks. The boss is even shot at her desk, much like "Office" boss Michael Scott extolling her benevolent management style.
What's next for "Cube Life"? Grayson and her colleagues will be discussing conceits for follow-up episodes next week. She's convinced, however, that she won't ever run out of inspiration. There's always tomorrow morning.
Beyond that, Rodgers might consider a comment left on TV One's site: "When does it come on TV?"