The House Arrest Rooneys Confines Dysfunctional Family And Talk Show Host Jerry Springer

New York City writer holds reading for his new sitcom and eyes Pitch Season in LA
The House Arrest Rooneys Confines Dysfunctional Family and Talk Show Host Jerry Springer
Source - Photo by Peter Welch

All marriages require sacrifice and contain many challenges, especially when children are involved. However, in Peter Welch's new family oriented sitcom, The House Arrest Rooneys, the storyline takes us way beyond those obvious facts of matrimonial life - and not just in name either.

"When it comes to family, we're essentially all under house arrest, as we can never fully get away from them no matter how hard some of us might try” Welch says of his new show, which will soon make the rounds during fall pitch season in LA .

The series is set in the suburbs of the creator's hometown

of Albany, NY and picks up when a happily estranged family is suddenly forced to live together again.  The unhappy reunion occurs when retired History teacher William Rooney and his New York City based, spoken word poet son are sentenced to home confinement. Trying to escape his nagging wife of forty years, William fakes his death and is convicted of insurance fraud with his son Paul.  

Recently holding a reading at  Shelter Studios in Manhattan, the scrum Welch has envision attracted a lead actor who knows something of not staying above the fray. “Jerry Springer read the part of William Rooney,” says Welch of the trash television American icon and veteran of Broadway.

The interest in airing it out from other notables didn’t end there either. Lev Gorn of FX's The Americans and Greg Mullavey of Norman Lear's Mary Hartman/Mary Hartman and Nickelodeon's iCarly took a seat and saw the potential. They were also joined by former Saturday Night Live alum and TONY nominated actress Denny Dillon,  EMMY Award winning producer/writer/actor William Electric Black and drag queen icon and Drama Desk winning playwright Charles Busch.  “Having that kind of talent taking part in the reading gives me a lot of confidence going forward,” says the NYC based actor/writer/filmmaker.

But star power aside, it's the show's ability to constantly "look back" that gives the Rooney's dysfunction an untried form of story development in Welch's estimation. “It’s very rooted in the history of the family,” he says. “The ghosts of different generations of Rooney’s fill out the story.”

Welch does this in part through the granddaughter April.  Read by Brigid Harrington, her character uses a Ouija Board to communicate with deceased family members and high profile characters. (The pilot featured an amusing discourse with Punk Rock Legend Joey Ramone.)

The pilot’s other conjuring came from the departure of the family’s youngest son, Robert (Kevin Cristaldi), who died of cancer at age thirty. Summoned back from heaven by family matriarch Margaret Rooney (Charles Busch), Robert was the former favorite child that Margaret will now have to lean on in order to cope with her newly returned husband and son. 

On the other hand, Welch’s inspiration grounds itself in real life exasperation.  “Growing up, I saw a lot of frustration in my own family,” he says. “My father often expressed it to me,  and as I got older I became aware that maybe he wasn’t

always so happy in his situation.” 

House Arrest if you will, but his father did his sentence until death do us. “He toed the line and wasn’t going skip out like William does in my show. But I'm sure he often felt like it.”

That futility of escape also extends to the character of Paul, whose artistic exploits never quite led him to a place where he could completely escape his family.  As Welch puts it,“When you’re 18, you think there’s this whole other world out there that is apart from the one you grew up in. Then you move to places like Paris or New York, but realize family is still pulling at you - even when you’re not sitting in the living room that you grew up in."

Unlike many other half hour shows, The House Arrest Rooneys is not looking for a laugh out loud every fifteen seconds. “It will be a very funny show at times. But as it's based on a play of mine, it will go much deeper in terms of characterization than most family oriented half hour shows," says Welch.  "It won't always be set up, set up, punch.” 

This has him labeling his new show a dramady.  

The genre in hand, his plans are a foot for the Hollywood pitch season this fall, and he feels pretty good about the prospects of having the biggest name in tow. “Everyone who did the reading seems to want to be involved going forward, especially Jerry Springer." 

Of course, if big names don’t breakdown network doors, he definitely sees openings along numerous alternate routes such as Hulu and other on demand platforms. Failing that, Welch may film a few episodes to prove its mettle online. 

Either way, the Rooney family won’t settle their differences for quite some time, and that will keep Welch going for the long haul.

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