EXCLUSIVE: The King of Queens star Kevin James is returning to his sitcom roots. I’ve learned that as part of the overall film and TV deal James just signed with Lionsgate, he will star in and executive produce a multi-camera comedy under the 10/90 model crafted by the Lionsgate-owned Debmar-Mercury. Under the template, Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury sell sitcoms to mostly cable networks with an initial 10-episode straight-to-series order, which, if a ratings target is met, triggers a 90-episode back order that allows the sitcom to quickly amass enough episodes for its launch in broadcast syndication. Debmar-Mercury introduced the 10/90 model with Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne followed by Perry’s Meet The Browns and Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet? — all on TBS. In the model’s second incarnation, Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury have been building comedies around proven sitcom stars including Charlie Sheen, the lead of Anger Management, now in production on its 90-episode back order; George Lopez, in production on the initial 10 episodes of Saint George; and Kelsey Grammer & Martin Lawrence, in preproduction on the initial 10 of the untitled Grammer/Lawrence project. Those three shows are on FX.
The three now will be joined by a series toplined by James, who fits right into that group as the star of one of the most successful multi-camera comedies of the past decade, The King Of Queens, which ran for more than 200 episodes on CBS from 1998-2007 and has done well in off-network syndication. Making the new project’s prospects even brighter is James’ post-King of Queens feature career, which further widened his appeal. I hear there is no concept yet for the series, and it is unclear whether James — who also is a writer, having co-written his feature starring vehicles Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Zookeeper and Here Comes the Boom as well as eight episodes of King Of Queens — will write or co-write the series, but he will be closely involved creatively.