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How Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck’s family situation inspired a new NBC sitcom

“Extended Family” is a fictional take on the amicable, post-divorce parenting relationship between Grousbeck, his wife, Emilia Fazzalari, and her ex-husband George Geyer.

From left: Finn Sweeney as Jimmy Jr., Sofia Capanna as Grace, Jon Cryer as Jim, Abigail Spencer as Julia, and Donald Faison as Trey in "Extended Family," premiering Saturday on NBC.Chris Haston/NBC

Audiences will get their first taste of “Extended Family” this weekend, a new NBC sitcom that was inspired by the real-life relationship between Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, his wife, Emilia Fazzalari, and her ex-husband George Geyer.

The premise of the Boston-set series — which debuts Saturday at 8 p.m. before moving to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays starting Jan. 2 — revolves around divorced couple Jim and Julia, played by “Two and Half Men” star Jon Cryer and “Timeless” actress Abigail Spencer, based on Geyer and Fazzalari. The pair continues to have an amicable relationship as they co-parent their two kids, but instead of the children trading places between mom and dad’s houses, it’s the parents who alternate living in the same home, or “nest.”


Further complicating matters, Spencer’s character gets engaged to Trey, a fictionalized version of the Celtics owner played by “Scrubs” star Donald Faison, adding another wrinkle to the equation. The “Brady Bunch” meets “Modern Family” dynamic is loosely inspired by how Grousbeck, Fazzalari, and Geyer navigate their actual family situation.

“When George and I were getting divorced, we decided one thing, and that was to put [their two] kids first,” Fazzalari told the Globe. “That meant don’t disrupt them. That meant don’t move them back and forth between houses. That’s how the whole idea of the nest came about and then the show.”

“Having seen other divorced families and other divorced couples with kids, the real pain point for the children is having to go back and forth,” Geyer added. “If you can remove that, we thought it’d be a lot easier on them and the pain would be on us instead of them.”

Wyc Grousbeck and Emilia Fazzalari attended the The Earthshot Prize 2022 at MGM Music Hall at Fenway in December 2022. Mike Coppola/Getty

Unlike most portrayals of divorce, “Extended Family” puts a positive spin on conscious uncoupling, with the characters of Jim, Julia, and Trey all getting along relatively swimmingly, which is how their real-life counterparts interact.


“He welcomed me into the family,” Grousbeck said of the friendly reception he received from Geyer when the Celtics owner “fell in love with Emilia.” Grousbeck and Fazzalari got engaged in 2016 and wed in 2017. Geyer and Fazzalari had divorced in 2015.

“Wyc really fit in seamlessly,” said Geyer. “There have been very, very few rough edges, at all.”

The repartee among the trio is what sold Red Sox chairman and television producer Tom Werner, who is “very good friends” with Grousbeck and Fazzalari, on turning that relationship into a show. Werner’s interest was piqued by their approach to parenting and divorce, but he knew it would take more than a few funny stories to create a sitcom.

“I really put them off for a long time, but every time I would see Emilia, she would tell another funny story about George,” Werner said. “At one point, it was almost like, ‘OK, let’s take the next step.’ ”

One moment that influenced Werner to move forward on the project occurred during a dinner between him, Grousbeck, and Fazzalari while they were on vacation. Fazzalari, the cofounder of Cincoro Tequila with Grousbeck and NBA legend Michael Jordan and the company’s CEO, couldn’t help but laugh after receiving a call from Geyer about their kids.

“I had taken a phone call from George, and I was cracking up,” Fazzalari said. “I hang up the phone and Tom looks at me and he goes, ‘I thought you were going to have a conversation with your ex-husband?’ I go, ‘No, that was my ex-husband.’ ”


From there, they asked Werner what they had to do to make the series a reality, and he told them to write a treatment. Werner’s office sent the trio previous treatments for shows like “Friends” and “Seinfeld” for inspiration.

“We studied these, and the three of us wrote a 27-page, single-spaced treatment, bound it in red leather, and handed it to Tom three months later,” said Grousbeck. “Tom read it for two days and came back and said, ’Here are my comments.’ He was very gentle with his comments because he really thought that there was something there.”

From left: Donald Faison as Trey, Abigail Spencer as Julia, and Jon Cryer as Jim in "Extended Family."Chris Haston/NBC

The treatment led to NBC and Lionsgate picking up the series. Grousbeck, Fazzalari, and Geyer have been heavily involved in all aspects of the show — the three are executive producers on the series — from casting and writing to costume and set design, with Geyer now spending two weeks out of every month as part of the “Extended Family” writers room in Los Angeles. He’s “even managed to have gotten a few jokes in the show.”

Boston native Mike O’Malley was brought in to serve as the series’ creator and showrunner. He was intrigued by the show’s premise and was eager to work with Werner again; they had previously teamed up on the 2014 comedy-drama “Survivor’s Remorse.”

“We’re trying to show what happens when a couple splits up but they still want to be great moms and dads and they don’t want to have an antagonistic relationship with their ex, and how do you do that?” said O’Malley.


In addition to highlighting the family dynamic and featuring Boston icons like comedian Lenny Clarke, the show also doesn’t shy away from giving the city’s love of sports air time. Grousbeck and company had to get permission from the NBA to use the Celtics name and logo, which factor heavily into the series. Werner said NBA commissioner Adam Silver gave his support to Grousbeck, as the league “is looking for its own ‘Ted Lasso.’ ”

As the series evolves, Grousbeck teases the possibilities of Celtics stars past and present making cameos on the show (former Celtic Rick Fox appears in the pilot). Werner believes the Boston sports angle of “Extended Family” will “really resonate” with local fans.

“There’s no city in America that lives and dies with its sports team more than Boston,” said Werner.

Grousbeck, Fazzalari, and Geyer have big aspirations for the show, with the Celtics owner “hoping for an Emmy some day.” They’re grateful for the opportunity and believe that working together on the show has deepened their bonds.

“It’s been a surreal process, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said Fazzalari. “In a strange way, I think it’s kind of actually brought all three of us closer together.”

Matt Juul can be reached at matthew.juul@globe.com.