Will Sheen Get Payne Treatment on New Show?Process only beginning as showrunner is needed to manage the star’s Anger 7/25/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Charlie Sheen will star in Anger Management,
a new sitcom produced by Joe Roth’s Revolution
Studios in conjunction with Lionsgate
and distributed by Lionsgate’s owned but independently
While Lionsgate and Debmar have managed to net
the star, the process of selling Sheen’s
new show has just begun.
Securing Sheen’s services allows Debmar-
Mercury and Revolution Studios to begin
the difficult task of locating the perfect
showrunner to turn Anger Management
into a hit. Sheen’s relationship with Two
and a Half Men creator and showrunner
Chuck Lorre deteriorated and led
to Sheen’s very public rant against Lorre
and the star’s dismissal from Men, but
Lorre created the show specifically for
Sheen. The proof of that success is in the
show’s continued strong ratings.
“We won’t do anything until we have a
showrunner,” says Ira Bernstein, copresident
of Debmar-Mercury, a title he shares
with Mort Marcus. “That’s our first goal.”
Once a showrunner is hired, Debmar-
Mercury will officially take Anger Management
Among possible business models for the new show,
Debmar-Mercury is considering the one it originated in
2006 with writer-producer Tyler Perry to distribute his
sitcom, House of Payne. In that model, Perry himself paid
to produce 10 episodes and Fox aired them in a test. The
test performed well; TBS placed an order for another
90 original episodes while Fox and other station groups
acquired the syndication rights in a total deal worth an
estimated $200 million, including cable and broadcast
cash license fees and advertising barter time.
Debmar has used the same model with two other Perry
shows—Meet the Browns and For Better Or Worse—and
with TBS’ Are We There Yet?, produced by Revolution’s
Roth and Ice Cube. Another Debmar show, Big Lake,
produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez
Productions, was tested on Comedy Central but
was not picked up to series.
House of Payne’s $200 million may sound like a
hefty price tag, but it’s actually a bargain considering
that most network sitcoms can cost as much as $2-$3
million per episode to produce. The biggest sitcoms—
such as Two and a Half Men, Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier
and Everybody Loves Raymond—cost significantly more
than that once they became hits in syndication and
their stars demanded sky-high salaries.
By contrast, House of Payne cost a reported $500,000
per episode to produce. That’s on the very low end of
the cost spectrum and makes this model very attractive
Bernstein and Marcus say that while they will use
the “10-90” model as a guideline, they are open to
suggestions when it comes to finalizing a deal.
“We always have an open mind,” says Bernstein.
“Being an independent, we have room to play around.
There aren’t any rules.”
Bernstein and Marcus have not started shopping the
sitcom yet, they said, and several cable networks and
other potential buyers confirmed that.
That said, Sheen’s new sitcom has plenty of potential
Turner’s TBS, which has acquired all of the Perry
sitcoms, would be considered the show’s most likely
buyer. Some sources raised the question of whether
Time Warner-owned Turner would be willing or able
to get back into business with Sheen considering
the trouble he caused sister company
Warner Bros. Television. TBS would
only say that no talks about Sheen’s new
show have been held. TBS would likely
want to at least get a look at Sheen’s new
project before deciding outright.
Other candidates include NBCUniversal’s
USA Network, which acquired Twentieth’s
Modern Family for approximately
$2.5 million an episode and has stated
that it plans to expand into comedy;
News Corp.’s FX, which airs Two and a
Half Men in syndication; Viacom’s Comedy
Central, which acquired 30 Rock in
a share with Tribune’s WGN America;
and WGN America, which has been on
a comedy buying spree in recent years in
an effort to build its brand.
Other potential buyers include relatively
new entrants into this market: online
video distributors Netflix and Hulu. Both upstart
companies have recently done deals with Lionsgate
and Debmar-Mercury. Last week, Hulu acquired the
exclusive digital rights to stream all nine seasons of
Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen to Hulu Plus subscribers.
Earlier this year, Lionsgate licensed seven seasons of
AMC’s Emmy-winning Mad Men, which Lionsgate produces,
to Netflix for approximately $1 million an episode.
Also, Epix, the multiplatform joint video venture
between Viacom’s Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate,
last year entered into a five-year, $1-billion agreement
with Netflix to stream new and library titles from the