Comedy Central Bets Big On Web Development
New series Workaholics, Ugly Americans and The Fuzz come rooted in online process
By Alex Weprin -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/7/2009 2:00:00 AM
"[The Web] is one of the key development resources we have at our fingertips," says Comedy's programming president Lauren Corrao (who leaves the network at the end of the month). "It offers us the opportunity to see whether [potential talent] can write, act or direct. It is almost like they can walk in the door already having proven that they can do certain things."
The network has three projects with roots in the Web in its development pipeline, and a fourth where the network is using the Web as a means of introducing a concept to viewers before deciding whether to send it to series.
Comedy has Workaholics in the pilot phase, based on a Web series that ran on 5thyear.com from the sketch comedy troupe Mail Order Comedy. That show follows a trio of slackers who spend their days working together and their nights partying together.
Animated series Ugly Americans is set to debut on the network in March, 2010, and is based loosely on the Atom.com Web show 5-On.
Atom, which is owned by the network, is also being used as a means of testing out The Fuzz, which takes the format of a crime procedural but sets it in a Sesame Street-esque world where puppets and humans coexist. Comedy is chopping the pilot into four or five chunks and releasing it as a series on Atom.com this month.
"We knew The Fuzz would make for a great Web short," Corrao says. "This was a way we [Comedy and Atom] could both get something out of it."
Corrao says that the network would "absolutely" be using the Web to test out programming ideas a la The Fuzz in the future.
"I think it is a great way to develop, it is low cost, there is a lot of creative freedom and we are not putting up the same kind of money we would be putting up for a television pilot," she says.
Finally, in the script phase of development, the network is working with twin comedians the Sklar Brothers on a comedy set at a sports talent management agency. The series would be very loosely based on the Sklars' Web series Back On Topps, which was set at the Topps trading card company. The show would likely feature cameos from well known athletes making regular guest appearances.
Comedy may be one of the most aggressive networks in using the Web to find talent and programming, but it is hardly alone. Turner's Adult Swim announced that it would be adapting TheWB.com's Children's Hospital into a series, while the producers of the MTV Web and mobile series Valemont plan on pitching their show to the network as a full-length series, though sources say that pitch has not yet taken place. Syfy was one of the earliest innovators in the area: Sanctuary, now in its second season, debuted on the Web in 2007. Comedy was also out front of the tide with the animated series Lil' Bush in 2007, which was ported over from mobile carrier Amp'd Mobile.
According to Corrao, no word has been made on whether or not to bring Secret Girlfriend back for a second season. The program averaged 1.5 million viewers per episode it's first season.
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