IFC Picks Up Four Originals, Renews 'Onion News Network'

Among the network's new fare are docu-comedies about competitive bearding and a comedy duo traveling the country to produce commercials for local businesses.

NEW YORK -- Docu-comedies Commercial Kings and Whisker Wars, scripted series Bullet in the Face, as well as travel show Young, Broke & Beautiful are four new original series scheduled to come to IFC later this year and in 2012.

At its upfront event for its original programming slate for 2011-12, the network also announced that it has renewed Onion News Network  for a second season, which will launch in October. The show received a 16-episode order, IFC's largest-ever scripted series order.

IFC on Tuesday also confirmed previous news that it is bringing back for their second seasons The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret with David Cross and Will Arnett (with six episodes that will launch in October) and Portlandia (which got a 10-episode order and returns in January).

IFC executives also said the network is developing an untitled variety show hosted by Scott Aukerman, host of IFC's Comedy Death-Ray, as well as improvisational game show Pointless, a project that reached the network via the New York Television Festival.

The IFC upfront lunch event at Manhattan's Ace Hotel featured appearances by Fred Armisen, creator and star of Portlandia, and Onion News Network host Brooke Alvarez.

It came after IFC last year unveiled the new tagline "Always On. Slightly Off."

The new brand identity evolved IFC's focus from indie films to more original programming, especially in the area of edgy comedy for an influential and predominantly male audience.

Commercial Kings from Reveille premieres on Friday, June 24 at 10 p.m. The series follows YouTube stars and comedy duo Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal as they travel across America, producing commercials for local businesses, such as a trash hauler. IFC plans to air 10 half-hour episodes.

Also set for June is the launch of half-hour travel show Young, Broke, hosted by writer/blogger Stuart Schuffman. The show that targets alternative culture enthusiasts got a six-episode order.

Whisker Wars, which launches in August, is about competitive bearding and the characters it attracts. It comes from reality expert Thom Beers' Original Productions and is slated for seven 30-minute episodes.

Bullet in the Face from Sledge Hammer! creator Alan Spencer is a half-hour scripted series about "a psychotic criminal turned cop," according to IFC. The show is set for a 2012 premiere, and the network has plans for six episodes.

IFC executives on Tuesday lauded the success of the programming focus they unveiled last year. 

"Our originals are resonating across all platforms and have elevated the network, making it a favorite destination for the viewers we target," said Jennifer Caserta, IFC's general manager and executive vp.

Evan Shapiro, president of IFC and Sundance Channel, said the network has attracted such blue-chip marketers as Subway and Kraft Foods, among others, by embracing an attractive niche audience. "Niche is the new mass, and we embrace that," he said, adding that IFC is "built for the new media brandscape." 

Also attending the IFC event was Josh Sapan, president of IFC parent Rainbow Media Holdings. Rainbow corporate parent Cablevision Systems is planning to spin off the cable networks company under the new name AMC Networks later this year.