'Sarah Silverman' returning to Comedy Central

Season 3 will be co-financed with sister network Logo

"The Sarah Silverman Program" will be back.

Comedy Central has ordered a 10-episode third season of its signature live-action series, which will now be co-financed with sister cable network Logo.

Set to return are all four executive producers of "Sarah": star Silverman, Dan Sterling, Ron Schrab and Heidi Herzon.

"We're happy," Silverman said. "All we ever wanted was just to make our show. Nothing fancy -- just our show."

It's a happy ending to a four-day drama that threatened to make "Sarah" the first major primetime casualty of the economic crisis after Comedy Central slashed the series' budget by more that 20% and its executive producers refused to continue at those terms.

"Things were tough on Friday and over the weekend," said Comedy Central president of original programming Lauren Corrao, who spearheaded the network's efforts to keep "Sarah" on the air. "We very much wanted the show, we just couldn't come to an agreement for a budget that was acceptable and uncompromising to the producers and that we could afford."

Like every other entertainment company in this financial climate, Viacom has imposed companywide belt-tightening measures, contracting budgets for its divisions, including Comedy Central parent MTV Networks.

As a result, the cable network proposed to the executive producers of "Sarah" a third-season pickup at a budget of $850,000 per episode, down from $1.1 million for Season 2.

Concerned that the reduction wouldn't allow them to keep the integrity of the single-camera comedy, which incorporates animated sequences and musical numbers, the exec producers declined the offer.

Then, in a surprising twist, the answer for the impasse came from the same place the budget cuts had come: MTV Networks.

At 6 a.m. Monday, Corrao came up with the idea to share "Sarah" with another MTV Networks outlet, Logo, which caters to gay, lesbian and transgender audiences.

She called former Comedy Central exec Marc Leonard, now a senior exec at Logo.

After discussing the idea for several hours, Logo's brass called up their Comedy Central counterparts to tell them they wanted to be part of the show.

Details on how the financial responsibility and the window sharing will be divided between the partners are being worked out, but sources said that with the combined financing, "Sarah" will result in a budget that's actually a bit higher than last season's $1.1 million per episode.

Logo has run Comedy Central shows before, including the animated series "Drawn Together," but this the first time the networks are involved in co-financing a series.

In broadcast TV, NBC made a similar arrangement with DirecTV last year to bring back the critically praised but low-rated "Friday Night Lights."

Logo is looking to capitalize on Silverman's strong appeal among women and gay men. Additionally, two of the main characters on the show, Sarah's neighbors Brian (Brian Posehn) and Steve (Steve Agee), are a gay couple.

Logo aired two episodes of "Sarah" in the summer as part of its NewNowNext awards show weekend when the Comedy Central series won for "best show you're not watching," beating such heavy hitters as AMC's "Mad Men."

"Sarah's" writing team is expected to convene shortly. The show's third season, which will get cross-promotional support on both Comedy Central and Logo, is eyed for a premiere in the first quarter of 2010.
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