Netflix’s The Who Was? Show, Inspired by Penguin Workshop’s #1 NYT Bestselling Who Was? Series, Nominated for 5 Daytime Emmys

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The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced yesterday that Netflix’s The Who Was? Show, a live-action sketch comedy series for children adapted from Penguin Young Readers’ #1 New York Times bestselling biography series, Who Was?, has been nominated for five Daytime Emmy Awards in the following categories: Outstanding Children’s or Family Viewing Series; Outstanding Writing for a Children’s, Preschool Children’s, Family Viewing; Outstanding Main Title and Graphic Design for a Live Action Program; Outstanding Single Camera Editing; and Outstanding Sound Editing For A Live Action Program.

Francesco Sedita, President and Publisher of Penguin Workshop and an executive producer of the show, describes it as “The Muppets meets SNL meets You Can’t Do That on Television.” Sedita came up with the idea of creating a TV series based on the books, and even created a pilot episode.

The show premiered on Netflix Kids & Family in April 2018. Based on Penguin Workshop’s wildly popular line of biographies for young readers, The Who Was? Show is a laugh-out-loud original series that tells the stories of famous historical figures from across the globe through improv, sketches, impersonations, music videos and animated shorts in a show-within-a-show format that is as entertaining as it is educational.

Pairing two unlike historical figures in each episode, The Who Was? Show imagines what might happen if someone like Marie Antoinette were to meet Louis Armstrong, or if Bruce Lee met Julius Caesar. The 13-episode series features a diverse teenage cast and appearances by special guest stars including Ellie Kemper, H. Jon Benjamin, Jane Krakowski, John Oliver and Andy Daly, among others. The show is helmed and written by a comedy dream team whose credits include The Daily Show, Conan O’Brien, Great Minds with Dan Harmon, and Roseanne.

The Who Was? book series launched in 2002 with just 4 titles. Known for its instantly recognizable cover art, which features historical figures illustrated as bobble-heads, the series became a runaway success, evolving into a brand encompassing over 230 titles across three series lines (Who Was?, Where Is?, and What Was?, known collectively as Who HQ), with more than 35 million copies in print worldwide. Who HQ is the #1 nonfiction series for middle grade readers; every 11 seconds, a Who HQ book is sold somewhere in the world.

For an inside look at how Who Was? went from page to screen, check out Publishers Weekly’s interview with Penguin Workshop’s Francesco Sedita and Jane O’Connor.

Posted: March 22, 2019