Comedy series go off-net

'Reno,' 'Chappelle' ready for fall

Two new comedies are entering the off-net syndication arena for the fall.

MGM Studios Inc., New Line Television and Comedy Central said Thursday that the network's "Reno 911!" and "Chappelle's Show" will be available for a syndication launch in the fall.

MGM, which will handle all station and national ad sales, will be selling the two Comedy Central series at NATPE's 2007 Conference & Ex-hibition, taking place Jan. 16-18 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, on an all-barter basis. The syndication of the shows will be overseen by Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at MGM, and John Bryan, executive vp broadcast strategy at MGM.

The shows marks the first new off-net programs to be syndicated by MGM under its new strategic relationship with New Line announced in October (HR 10/9). Under that deal, MGM is handling domestic distribution for broadcast syndication of New Line's motion picture packages and series programming for the next two years. The deal kicked off with "Masterminds," the Court TV series that New Line had already debuted in syndication.

Packer said that MGM has been talking to stations about the two Comedy Central shows for a couple of days and has had "enthusiastic" response thus far. He also pointed to the scarcity of off-net sitcoms from broadcast networks on the horizon.

"The sitcom arena is always one that works well for stations, but there's not as much product coming down the pike," Packer said. "(Comedy Central's) 'South Park' (distributed in syndication by Debmar-Mercury) has already broken the cable-to-syndication taboo and really proven that a show that works on Comedy Central can make it in syndication quite well. These two shows are really good, solid entries for television stations."

Packer added that while each station partner will determine the time periods, it's "more than likely that a lot of the markets" will air the shows in late-night slots.

Comedy Central recently picked up "Reno 911!" for a fifth season. The half-hour comedy, from Jersey Television, was created by and stars Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney-Silver and Thomas Lennon as cops patrolling Reno, Nev. The series has also been adapted into a feature film, "Reno 911!: Miami," which is being released next month.

"Chappelle's Show" — starring Dave Chappelle and featuring sketches, man-on-the-street pieces and pop culture parodies — began airing in January 2003. Season 2 was the No. 1 show in its slot in all of television among men 18-34, while the DVD set "Chappelle's Show Season One Uncensored!" is the best-selling DVD of a television show to date, selling more than 3 million copies, according to Comedy Central. During production on Season 3, Chappelle abruptly left the show, and the series wrapped up over the summer with three installments dubbed "Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes." The series was co-created and co-written by Neal Brennan.