Ron Howard lands project at Fox

Brent Forrester to write multicamera comedy

His previous pet TV project, the single-camera comedy "Arrested Development," became one of the most acclaimed series of the past decade.

Now, Ron Howard is back with a new idea for a comedy series, this time in the multicamera genre.

The show, a workplace comedy set at an Internal Revenue Service district office, landed at Fox with a put pilot commitment and one of the biggest penalties so far this season, estimated in the range of $650,000.

It will be written by Brent Forrester, writer-director on another workplace comedy, NBC's single-camera "The Office."

Fox brass was so high on the 20th TV/Imagine project that they bought it pre-emptively before it could be pitched to other networks.

Forrester and Howard are executive producing with Imagine's Brian Grazer and David Nevins.

"It's an idea Ron had toyed with for many years as a feature," Nevins said. "Eventually, Brian and I convinced him it would be better as a TV show."

The three met with several writers until hitting it off with Forrester.

"The one thing that unites all Americans is their suspicion and hatred for the IRS," Forrester said. "That makes the characters on the show underdogs, because outside the office everyone is suspicious of them."

The IRS agent at the center "is trying hard to believe that his job is good and noble and provides a very important, vital service," Forrester said.

"It's a classic workplace show; the model for it is 'Taxi,' " Forrester said. "In essence, it's a group of eclectic characters who have come to the job from different paths and who represent different points of view and different voices."

There will be procedural elements to the show, too.

" 'L.A. Law' had lawsuits, and 'CSI' has murders; this show has audits, tax collection and special ops, with the

FBI against organized crime and drug dealers," Forrester said.

The IRS project is part of a major revival of the multicamera genre this development season.

"It's a unique, original American art form," Forrester said of the multicamera sitcom. "Single-camera comedy tries to capture the magic of filmmaking; multicamera comedy tries to capture the magic of live theater."

Forrester, whose credits include "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill," is repped by UTA, Levity and attorney Karl Austen.