Before he was the supervising producer for "In Living Color," before he was an Emmy-award winning producer for "Friends," and before he was a trustee and an Artist-in-Residence, Kevin Bright was an Emerson student. Embodying the "I'll be there for you" message of his most famous show's theme song, Bright has returned to his alma mater this semester to share over 25 years of professional television industry experience with today's Emersonians.
Bright made the decision to come back to teach at Emerson, when he found himself at odds with the direction of the television industry after the end of "Friends" spinoff "Joey."
"It was just the right time in my life," Bright said. "I was looking for an opportunity to recharge and this seemed like the perfect place: a place where people are wide-eyed about what they're doing, not dead-eyed."
In addition to teaching the course Directing Comedy for Television, Bright is advising the production of two new comedy programs for the Emerson Channel.
"The Zebro Show" is a sketch comedy program that will be staged by seven Emerson students who currently perform Tuesday nights at Improv Boston.
Aiming for a new level of professionalism, the show will be taped live in front of a studio audience.
Its counterpart, "Midnight Snack," will follow hosts Gabriella Conti, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, and Stephen Christy, a senior visual and media arts major, around the city, exploring it in a way that Bright is reluctant to share but promises will entertain while challenging typical show concepts.
Both programs were developed after a series of pitch meetings between Bright, Emerson Channel Manager Amy Grill, and student writers, directors and talent.
"We wanted to do two totally different types of comedy," said Joseph Mancuso, a senior visual media arts major, who is the supervising producer of both shows. "Kevin wanted to give as much experience to people as possible."
For this reason, Bright's involvement in the shows is limited.
He gives creative notes, direction and feedback, but the actual production and success of the shows depend on the crew of more than 50 students.
Though Bright admits that there is a difference between this crew and those of his Hollywood past, he is quick to point out the benefits of inexperience.
"The students love what they're doing," Bright said. "Professionals love what they're doing, too, but they're also trying to make a buck. These kids want to work and they want to make the product."
Production for the shows began with "The Zebro Show" shooting for the first time this past weekend.
Both programs will be in production for most of November and have projected premiere dates later that month or in early December.
Even with the guidance of one of the most successful television producers of the last decade, there is no guarantee that the shows will carry over into next semester or spawn other creations.
But for Grill, that doesn't effect how meaningful Bright's return to Emerson will be in the end.
"This is an invaluable learning opportunity for everyone-myself and the students," Grill said. "We have all been working very well together and the students are completely engaged and excited about the opportunity. They understand how special this is. This kind of collaboration has never happened before in student production. I think Kevin's presence on campus this semester has the potential to have a lasting positive impact on student productions at Emerson."
Bright is enthusiastic about coming back to the school he graduated from 30 years ago and has not ruled out staying into the spring semester.
But for now, he said he is focused on making sure that his two latest experiments get the exposure they deserve within the Emerson community.
"If there's anything that [Emersonians] should know it's this: look out for "Midnight Snack."