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Ellen DeGeneres is ‘Happy’ as NBC sitcom producer

Ellen DeGeneres is one busy maker of television these days.

In addition to her popular syndicated weekday talk show, the comedian also has produced the HGTV competition series “Ellen’s Design Challenge” and ABC’s Tuesday program “Repeat After Me.” Through her firm A Very Good Production, she’s adding another credit to her very active TV season … as an executive producer of the NBC sitcom “One Big Happy,” premiering Tuesday.

Elisha Cuthbert (“24,” “Happy Endings”) and Nick Zano (“Cougar Town”) play longtime, romantically unattached friends who decide to have and raise a child together. The plan is altered when Luke impulsively marries new acquaintance Prudence (Kelly Brook, “Smallville”) – just as lesbian Lizzy (Cuthbert) learns she’s pregnant – and whether they all can coexist as one big happy family remains to be seen.

“We’re starting out with a lesbian as the central character this time around, so there’s no surprises,” DeGeneres said in comparing “One Big Happy” to her 1990s “Ellen” series. “People aren’t going to freak out, versus when I surprised everybody. I think it’s a more accepting world that we live in, for the most part. Obviously, there are people that are still not on board. The show is not just about that.”

Still, “One Big Happy” is based on the life of its creator and fellow executive producer, Liz Feldman (“2 Broke Girls”). She confirmed “it’s based on my relationship with my straight best friend. We were planning on having a baby together. We’ve been friends our whole lives, and then he met the love of his life and that changed the course of our lives. Honestly, it was so difficult to deal with it when it happened, the only thing I knew how to do was write something about it.”

“One Big Happy” continues actress Cuthbert’s move into comedy, a big switch from her well-known work as “24’s” frequently imperiled Kim Bauer. She credits co-star Zano for helping her get used to going for laughs in front of a studio audience.

“I couldn’t believe that they were even considering me for this character,” she maintained. “It just seemed too good to be true. I said, ‘There’s a problem. I can’t do a multicamera show.’ I mean, I was terrified of the fact that we would have to go in and shoot in front of 200 people live. He said to me, ‘Elisha, I know you can do this.’ If it wasn’t for Nick, I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do it, but I’m grateful to him that I did.”

DeGeneres reasons that “what’s going to be great about this show is, as you get to know these characters, they’re just going to be people that you love and watch and don’t think twice about any of it being weird. It’s just friendship or family or whatever that is. I think friendship is obvious, but family is not so obvious. I think family changes all the time.”