Several Nets Plan to Make ’Em Laugh

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Pasadena, Calif.— A quartet of cable networks are trying to leave audiences laughing.

Despite the medium’s difficulties with the genre, Women’s-targeted networks Oxygen and Lifetime Television, Disney Channel and VH1 introduced or discussed comedy series during their sessions at the Television Critics Association tour here last week.

Unlike the drama category, cable in general has struggled to mine ratings success from situation comedies. For instance, FX took another run at the genre last summer. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia was renewed for a second season, but Starved didn’t make the cut.

“Comedy is difficult on a good day and cable is not necessarily known for a lot of comedy, but we are a funny place and we have humor in our DNA and our brand,” Oxygen president of programming and marketing Debby Beece, who discussed Campus Ladies with the pundits.

The Jan. 8 premiere of Campus Ladies, which follows a pair of 40-something housewives who decide to go to college, earned a 0.51 household rating and cumed over 1 million viewers across all of its airings. That helped Oxygen to its best week ever among households and women 18 to 49, according to network officials.

The show joins the dark sophomore comedy series Nighty Night and freshman skein Suburban Shootout as laughers on Oxygen’s schedule.

Lifetime’s new comedy series Lovespring, set to premiere this summer, is the first original series commissioned by Lifetime Entertainment Services president of entertainment Susanne Daniels. She said the series, which follows counselors at a matchmaking agency, is part of her plan to provide a mix of comedy and drama programming for the distaff network.

Lovespring is exactly what we’re looking for in that it’s fresh, funny and relatable,” Daniels said.

Disney Channel will look to continue its successful string of tween-targeted sitcoms with the March 24 launch of Hanna Montana, starring country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and his daughter Miley Cyrus. In a role reversal of sorts, Miley plays a pop star trying to life a normal teenage life, with Billy Ray playing her father.

VH1 will rollout its first scripted series in April with the Tori Spelling-vehicle So noTORIos. The single-camera series spoofs Spelling’s life as the daughter of mega-producer Aaron Spelling and as an actress struggling to make it on her own, said VH1 executive vice president of production and programming Michael Hirschorn.

Linda Haugsted contributed to this report.

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