Justin Lin to Produce Ping Pong Comedy for NBC

Director Justin Lin is coming back to TV to executive produce a quirky comedy series about ping pong for NBC. The project was born of the first-look deal Lin signed with Sony Pictures in early September in the wake of a two-picture deal with Universal Pictures.

The series will be called Pong, based on the 2010 book Everything You Know Is Pong by Roger Bennett and Eli Horowitz. Little has been revealed yet about the series to come, but the book is a giddy celebration of the global sport of ping pong which its publishers call “the most popular yet misunderstood pastime in the world today, a sleeping giant of fast-paced fun.” The book offers to take readers on “a journey into the dark corners and distant alleys of this ponging globe, from suburban basements of misspent youths to Bangkok backrooms to New Jersey rec rooms to Beijing stadia to dwarf child champions to elderly enthusiasts to Hollywood hipsters to perky porn stars.”

But the NBC series appears to be centered on the life of a ping pong star who’s living in the past while struggling to survive in the real world.

It will be Lin’s first foray outside the world of feature films since directing three episodes of NBC’s Community for Sony. That job had grown out of Lin’s friendship with Joe Russo, the series’ co-director/executive producer and ultimately led to Lin setting up shop at Sony which also has a deal with the Russo brothers.

Lin has become one of Hollywood’s big-money directors after directing three installments of the Fast and the Furious. Fast Five has grossed over $600 mil. in global box office. Lin is reportedly pitching another TV comedy series while getting set to helm Fast & Furious 6 set for May 24, 2013 release. Under his Universal deal he is developing a spy thriller called Leading Man and a feature about the Japanese American 442 Regimental Combat Team. Lin is also signed to direct the next Terminator movie.

Justin Lin was born in 1973 in Taipei. His family moved to Buena Park where his parents opened up a strip mall fish-and-chips eatery that became the in-spot for hookers and pimps. Lin admits to having yearned desperately to fit in like most kids. He joined the Boy Scouts to achieve what he saw as American boyhood’s ultimate achievement: the Eagle Scout badge. Between Scouts, sports and school, Lin had little time to develop an interest in film. In high school he was an honor roll, academic decathalon kid who spent his free time absorbing SAT vocabulary words. But he also broke with stereotypes by becoming a varsity athlete.

“It’s funny because it was good I did all these activities but I did them for the wrong reasons,” he admits. “I just wanted to prove people wrong.”

Continuing to defy model-minority expectations, Lin attended UCLA School of Film and Television and earned his BA and MFA in film directing. He worked as production coordinator of the Media Arts Center at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and gained some behind-the-camera experience directing the offbeat indie Shopping for Fangs. Time spent working with youth inspired a screenplay that became his short-form thesis script and later developed into Better Luck Tomorrow (2002), the Asian American drama he shot for $250,000 to launch his career as a Hollywood wunderkind.