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NOV
30
4 YEARS

Martin Lawrence producing TV One comedy

94772-lawrence_martin_341x182 Martin Lawrence is returning to TV, executive producing anAfrican-American comedy for cable network TV One.

The project is the latest effort by independent producers to servean audience on cable that's been largely neglected by studios andbroadcasters since the merger of the WB and UPN.

Without so much as a pilot order, writer-director Bentley KyleEvans ("Martin," "The Jamie Foxx Show") shot four episodes of "LoveThat Girl!" The comedy stars Tatyana Ali ("The Fresh Prince ofBel-Air," "TV One Access").

"Girl!" was made on a shoestring budget, with Evans calling infavors from friends and colleagues to shoot four episodes over afive-day period in a converted warehouse. Although self-financing apilot has become more common as producers struggle to break thoughan increasingly consolidated studio landscape, producing fourentire episodes is rare. Producers managed to deliver the packageon a total budget of roughly $1.2 million.

"It's great to be back in the television game and working with anetwork like TV One," Evans said. "If executed properly, this willrepresent a whole new model for producing and delivering qualityscripted series to the television market at a reasonablecost."

TV One will show "Girl!" over a three-night period starting Jan.19. This will mark the first original scripted program to air on TVOne, which is available in roughly 50 million homes and typicallyfeatures specials and syndicated programming, including repeats of"Martin," one of the network's top-rated shows.

If the episodes hit a certain rating, the network will pick up13-26 additional half-hours.

In addition to Lawrence, Evans and Jeff Franklin ("Full House") areexecutive producers, as are Raphael Saadiq and Trenten Gumbs.

In recent years, black comedies have experienced a revival oncable, with TBS drawing large audiences from Tyler Perry's "Houseof Payne" and "Meet the Browns." "Payne" likewise had a modestlaunch, first being tested on several local stations before movingto nationally distributed TBS.

"Girl!" is described as a sexy comedy following a young divorceewho returns home to Southern California and takes a job in herfather's real estate business and lives with her unemployedbrother.