Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, an independent producer and distributor of first-run syndicated TV programming, has sold its sitcoms The First Family and Mr. Box Office to Tribune, Weigel and CBS Television Station Groups as part of a two-hour primetime weekend comedy block. It has been cleared in more than 85% of the U.S. Entertainment Studios first shot pilots for the sitcoms, which are getting initial orders of 104 episodes each. They will run two half-hours each, back-to-back, to create a two-hour primetime block.
The First Family is about an African-American family that resides in the White House. Its cast includes Christopher B. Duncan, Kellita Smith, Gladys Knight, Jackee Harry, John Witherspoon, Marla Gibbs, and Michael D. Roberts. Mr. Box Office is about one of the world’s biggest movie stars, who is sentenced to community service teaching English at an inner-city high school in South Central Los Angeles. It stars Bill Bellamy, Jon Lovitz, Vivica A. Fox, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Rick Fox, Gary Busey, Alex Thomas, Tony T. Roberts, and Tim Meadows. Allen said his decision to do first-run syndicated comedy series was driven by “the huge shortfall of quality family sitcoms” for broadcast stations. His model of accelerated production is similar to that introduced by Debmar-Mercury, which features a first window for its sitcoms on cable before they go to stations in syndication.