Comedy Central has commissioned its biggest slate of pilots
ever, with marquee names such as comedian Julie Brown, Bob Saget and John Landis among
those involved in the seven shows.
Comedy plans to actually green-light only two to four of
the seven pilots, with the first series expected to hit the air between April and June,
according to executive vice president of programming Eileen Katz.
The seven pilots span a variety of formats, including game
shows, scripted series, reality-based shows and even one that -- like a combination of
VH1's Pop-Up Video and the just-cancelled Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- takes
a comedic look at Jackie Chan's kung-fu movies.
When Katz joined Comedy four years ago, she instituted a
pilot-and-development process. To date, the network has only been doing two to four pilots
"This year, we're fortunate enough to get the
resources to increase that," Katz said. "For us, we are poised better than ever
to compete with other cablers who claim to be comedy experts."
Comedy declined to put a specific price tag on the slate of
pilots, other than saying that it's a multimillion-dollar lineup. "Our development
budget is higher than ever," Katz added.
The higher-profile caliber of the talent involved in the
pilots is also a testament to Comedy's progress over the past few years, according to
"We are at a place now where we have a
reputation," Katz said. "Talent knows they can have their vision realized
For example, Saget -- formerly of Full House and America's
Funniest Home Videos -- came to Comedy with his Sleepover with Bob idea.
"It's been a pet project of his for a while," Katz said.
In the show, Saget barges into American homes, latches onto
unsuspecting people and tries to convince them to let him stay the night. Saget, Troy
Miller and Brillstein Grey Television are executive producers for Sleepover with Bob.
In a way, Saget will be "a wolf in sheep's
clothing" on this show, since most Americans only know the comedian through his past
two affable shows, according to Katz. But he has a darker, edgier side from his stand-up
comedy days that will be on display in Sleepover with Bob,she added.
Six of the pilots, including Sleepover with Bob, are
being produced on the West Coast, with one being done on the East Coast. "You'll see
represented a number of genres and formats," Katz said.
The West Coast pilots include:
Stripmall, which features Brown -- whose
biggest movie to date was Earth Girls Are Easy -- as Tammi, a former child star who
works in a seedy bar and who married the owner of a dry-cleaning business for his money.
She plots to murder him to collect his life insurance in just one of the plot lines that
unfolds in a strip mall in San Francisco.
The show's ensemble cast includes Victoria Jackson, Maxwell
Caulfield and Jennifer Coolidge of American Pie.Brown and her partner,
Charlie Coffey, are executive producers.
Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, hosted by Hangin'
with Mr. Cooper's Mark Curry, is a remake of a popular British game show. In it, the
entire studio audience is packed to go away, and one member is chosen to perform a stunt
and earn the trip. The executive producer is Andrew Golder, who got an Emmy Award for Win
Ben Stein's Money.
Brett and Loretta Salute features Brett
Paesel and Loretta Fox paying tribute to historical and present phenomena by saluting
them. The pilot episode is dedicated to wicker.
American Freak is a satire done as if it were
a long-running British show, with studio segments shot in London in front of a live
audience. British host Nigel Pickford, played by British comedian Neil Mullarky, explores
bizarre stories of American culture. In the pilot, one of the in-the-field pieces is on
Chinese Takeout isa comedic-clip show
that employs voice-overs and on-screen graphics, similar to Pop-Up Video,to
make comments on the action scenes from Chan's kung-fu movies. Landis is executive
producer, and the pilot is a co-production with New Line Television.
The single East Coast-based pilot is Doing Time,
which showcases short-form programming and the comedy of Dave Attell. He plays an amateur
adventurer whose daredevil stunts get him in trouble with a judge, who sentences him to
house arrest. The show depicts Attell trying to kill time in the confines of his sister's
and brother-in-law's house.
Despite the seeming similarities, Katz said Chinese
Takeout was different in tone from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
"Chinese Takeout is a celebration of Jackie
Chan chop-suey movies," Katz said. "Mystery Science Theater was about bad
'B' movies. We're focusing on a specific cult genre and how we can lampoon it."
Katz added that she has been "chasing" Don't
Forget Your Toothbrush for five years, describing it as "weekly
American Freak "celebrates the
ridiculousness" of American phenomenon like all-you-can-eat buffets, which are unique
to this country, according to Katz.