Diversity rules at Comedy Central

2007-08 slate includes sketch/variety, scripted, ani

Comedy Central on Tuesday unveiled its 2007-08 development slate, which includes pilots from Jamie Tarses and former "Saturday Night Live" head writer T. Sean Shannon. Also on the Comedy plate are presentation deals for a magazine-show parody hosted by David Alan Grier, executive produced by Peter Aronson and Jordan Levin, and a sketch/variety show featuring Middle Eastern-American comedians.

Lauren Corrao, executive vp original programming and development at Comedy Central, noted that the variety of projects ranged from shortform and sketch/variety to scripted narrative and animation.

"What I love about this slate most is the diversity of it in the sense that we've got scripted narrative shows, sketch shows and even a whole new format (with 'faux courtroom' pilot 'Root of All Evil')," she said. "And I love the auspices behind the projects we're working on; there's a lot of great talent."

The pilot orders (all of which are tentatively titled) include Shannon's "Night Writer," described as a shortform comedy show that includes live-action sketches, animation shorts and voice-over stills. It centers on a show writer in the midst of writing, with the events occurring in real time; his distinct point-of-view sets up the comedy, while various characters react to the sketches as they unfold. The comedy is inspired by Shannon's books, "Big Business," "Cough It Up" and "Bum Love."

Also ordered to pilot is "Held Up," a half-hour narrative that centers on a bored bank teller whose life changes dramatically when two teams of crazy robbers hold up his branch. The main characters are held hostage for the entire arc of the series and fall victim to the "comedic version" of the Stockholm syndrome (a psychological response sometimes seen in hostages). Tarses, the former ABC Entertainment president whose executive producer credits include the TBS comedy "My Boys," will exec produce with Alan Freedland, Alan Cohen and Gene Hong.

The two pilots join the previously announced "Larry the Cable Guy" animated project (HR 12/13), the sketch show "Michael Ian Black Doesn't Understand" and "Root of All Evil," presided over by Lewis Black ("The Daily Show With Jon Stewart").

Meanwhile, Comedy Central has ordered presentations of projects including "David Alan Grier's Chocolate News," a magazine-show parody hosted by Grier that covers inherently urban pop culture topics; the correspondents will double as sketch players. The project is executive produced by Grier, Robert Morton ("Mind of Mencia") as well as Aronson and Levin, who will exec produce through their management-production company, Generate. Former Regency Television president Aronson and WB Network CEO Levin are two of the partners in Generate, which launched last year and has a multiyear development pact with MTV Networks, whose brands include Comedy Central (HR 2/27).

Also among the presentation deals is "The Watch List," a sketch/variety show that features material from up-and-coming Middle Eastern-American comedians performing "edgy, intelligent, race-based comedy." "Watch List," which premiered as an original series on Comedy Central's Web site, would become the network's first to make the transition from broadband to linear if it were picked up to series. It is created and produced by stand-up comic Dean Obeidallah, co-founder of the Arab-American Comedy Festival, and Emmy-winning writer Max Brooks ("SNL").

Also on the presentation slate is the previously announced "The JoKoy Project," which features animation, sketch and stand-up.

Meanwhile, the Sony Pictures Television-produced comedy "Not Another High School Show" is still under consideration for series pickup, Corrao said, adding that decisions on any series orders will be made in late summer or early fall, with an eye toward 2008 premiere dates.