FX Buys Kelsey Grammer, Martin Lawrence Oddball Comedy

Kelsey Grammer Martin Lawrence - H 2013
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Kelsey Grammer Martin Lawrence - H 2013

FX has scooped up another 10/90 comedy.

The network has acquired 10 episodes of the odd couple effort, starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence as Chicago lawyers from vastly different backgrounds who unexpectedly meet in court on the worst day of their lives. Brought together by fate and greed, they develop a partnership and friendship, forcing each other to find the balance between the ethical and unscrupulous in their professional and personal lives. If the still untitled multi-camera comedy, from Lionsgate Television and Debmar-Mercury, hits a certain ratings threshold within its initial straight-to-series 10 episode run, 90 more will be ordered automatically.

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The comedy's pedigreed group, which includes executive producers Bob Boyett and Robert Horn (Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Full House), began taking the pitch around to a series of cable and broadcast networks shortly after upfront week wrapped in mid-May. Though there was said to be interest from multiple nets, Lionsgate and Debmar ultimately struck a deal with the network with which it has the most history.

Grammer and Lawrence, both repped by UTA, along with Brian Sher, Stella Bulochnikov, Michael Green and Sam Maydew will serve as executive producers. The series will be produced by Lionsgate Television in association with Grammnet NH Productions and You Go Boy Productions.

"With the merging of two comedic geniuses, as well as two legendary showrunners, we couldn't have a stronger team onboard for this show and can't wait to get to work," stated FX chief operating officer and president of program strategy Chuck Saftler. "We're also thrilled to be continuing our relationship with the pros at Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury."

The sale marks the third 10/90 acquisition by the News Corp-owned cable group, which will add a second network later this year. FX began airing Charlie Sheen's Anger Management in June 2012 and ordered a forthcoming George Lopez comedy, Saint George, less than a year later. Such programs are treated internally as acquisitions, a la Two and a Half Men reruns, rather than FX original series, and are scheduled accordingly.

"I am excited to be returning to TV and to be working with Kelsey," Lawrence said. "We have a great time together, so I am looking forward to making a good show with a lot of laughs."

Added Grammer, who returns to comedy after dabbling briefly with drama on Lionsgate-produced Boss: "Martin is arguably one of the funniest men alive, and after some success in drama I thought it might be time to try my hand at comedy. I am thrilled to have this extraordinary team show me the ropes. All kidding aside, I don't think a better bunch of talent exists. I am honored and blessed."

With this, Debmar-Mercury has successfully sold all eight 10/90 comedy projects that it has taken to market. More impressive: only one, Comedy Central's Big Lake, did not move beyond its initial 10-episode run. According to their Anger Management showrunner, Bruce Helford, the alternative programming model is poised to have a dramatic impact on the industry, if it hasn't already. "It's simple economics: If you lay it out properly, you're strong in your organizational skills and you have a good writing staff, you can do the same quality of show for half the money and in half the time," Helford said in a recent interview with THR, noting that it will take him only two years to reach 100 episodes, as opposed to the five years it took him to reach that threshold on The Drew Carey Show.

"Pair two great actors and comedy legends with the executive producing team behind some of the most memorable sitcoms ever, mix in the outstanding team at FX and you have all of the ingredients for another TV classic," said Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein in a statement. "Our 10/90 model is all about delivering brand names and concepts that will grab viewers instantly, having incredible creative auspices and a very supportive network. This sitcom surpasses our criteria on virtually every level."

Lionsgate Television Group president Kevin Beggs also commented: "There was an immediate rapport between Kelsey and Martin from their very first meeting, and when Bob and Robert joined as showrunners, all the stars aligned in a very exciting way. We're delighted that FX recognized the tremendous potential for this series and look forward to another great collaboration."

Grammer is a five-time Emmy winner for his work on comedies that include Cheers and Frasier. Most recently, he starred for two seasons on the Starz drama Boss. Lawrence, meanwhile, stars in the Bad Boys and Big Momma's House trilogies in addition to his sitcom, Martin, which ran from 1992-97 on Fox.