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CMT wants to bring back the traditional family sitcom — and add afew gators.
The Viacom-owned network has ordered two series to launch an actionblock and hired comedy executive Brad Johnson to oversee anexpansion into scripted programming. The network intends to developabout a dozen comedy scripts with an eye toward having two sitcomson the air next year.
But first, coming in the second quarter are ITV’s “Danger Coast”and 12 Forward’s “Gator 911” (working titles).
“We did a lot of research looking at what reality programming ouraudience watched on other networks, and adventure shows keptpopping up near the top of the list,” said Mary Beth Cunin, CMTsenior vp programming strategy.
“Coast” follows Miami’s elite Marine Operations Bureau as theyprotect the public. “Gator” follows Gary Suarage, owner ofTexas-based adventure park Gator Country, as he and his team rescuewandering gators. Both half-hours received a 10-episodeorder.
“These shows have a mixture of adventure and fun and perfectly fitour filter,” said Bob Kusbit, head of development at the network. “‘Danger Coast’ has beautiful-looking water, but these people trulylay their lives on the line. ‘Gator 911’ has colorful characters,but at the heart of it they’re saving gators.”
Built on music video programming, CMT has followed the VH1 model ofgradually expanding into reality shows and specials. The networkboasts that 2009 will be its ninth consecutive year ofyear-over-year primetime growth among adults 18-49, with breakoutsincluding its country revamp of former NBC title “The Singing Bee”and its reality show “World’s Strictest Parents.”
CMT’s audience research has shown the network’s viewership isfairly broad (and evenly split between men and women), whichsupports expanding into more general programming — music, comedy,adventure and family are the genres that execs say best suit theirnetwork.
With plenty of family-friendly and music video programming alreadyon the air, that left adventure and comedy.
Johnson has assumed the newly created position of senior vp comedydevelopment. A former executive at Fox, Johnson developed “TheSimple Life,” “American Dad” and “Arrested Development” and servedas a showrunner on the long-running sitcom “Coach.” During hisfour-year tenure at the studio, three of the shows Johnsondeveloped earned writing Emmys.
“What we’re finding from the creative community is there’s a lullin the family sitcom because networks wanted some particular edge– they want it to be younger or have something specific about it,”said Kusbit, who cited shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “HomeImprovement” and “Roseanne” as inspirations. “It really seemed likethe right time for us to do this.”
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