FX is quickly turning into the exclusive network partner of Lionsgate for its 10-90 sitcoms. The cable network has picked up a third series from Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury and Lionsgate TV, a buddy comedy starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence. The marquee project, written/executive produced by comedy veterans Bob Boyett and Robert Horn, features Grammer and Lawrence as Chicago lawyers from vastly different backgrounds who develop a partnership after they unexpectedly meet in court on the worst day of their lives, forcing each other to find the balance between the ethical and the unscrupulous in both their professional and personal lives. FX has picked up 10 episodes of the untitled series which, in success, will be followed by a 90-episode back order.
The Grammer-Lawrence project came together pretty quickly. Debmar-Mercury had been talking to Lawrence about headlining a 10/90 vehicle when sibling Lionsgate TV approached them about doing a comedy with Grammer, who had a deal at the studio stemming from the Emmy winner’s involvement in the Lionsgate TV-produced Starz drama Boss. I hear it was Debmar-Mercury co-president Ira Bernstein who came up with the idea to pair the two stars. “Martin is arguably one of the funniest men alive and after some success in drama I thought it might be time to try my hand at comedy,” Grammer said. A November meeting right before Thanksgiving between Grammer, Lawrence and Lionsgate/Debmar-Mercury brass followed, where the two actors showed great chemistry. After a brief pause while Grammer’s financial divorce settlement was finalized, the project was put on the fast track at the beginning of the year. Boyett and Horn were brought in as writers/showrunners and the project was taken out to buyers at the very end of May. It was pitched to all major broadcast networks and a number of cable networks. It came down to TV Land, which went very aggressively after the property, and FX, with FX ultimately landing the series. “There was an immediate rapport between Kelsey and Martin from their very first meeting, and when Bob and Robert joined as showrunners, all the stars aligned in a very exciting way,” Lionsgate TV Group President Kevin Beggs said. At FX, the Lawrence-Grammer series joins Lionsgate/Debmar-Mercury’s Anger Management, currently in the midst of its 90-episode back order and the upcoming 10/90 George Lopez sitcom Saint George. It comes as Anger Management, is going through rough times, plagued with soft ratings and behind-the-scenes turmoil, as star/executive producer Charlie Sheen just had his co-star Selma Blair let go.
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Under Debmar-Mercury’s 10/90 template, the company sells 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 order. The idea is for Debmar-Mercury to quickly amass enough episodes for the sitcom’s launch in broadcast syndication. The company first introduced that 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. Now the company again aims to have three 10/90 sitcoms on the air at the same time, this time on FX. “Our 10/90 model is all about delivering brand names and concepts that will grab viewers instantly, having incredible creative auspices and a very supportive network,” Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein said. ” This sitcom surpasses our criteria on virtually every level.” The Grammer-Lawrence comedy is produced by Lionsgate TV in association with Grammnet NH Prods. and You Go Boy Prods. Boyett, Horn, Grammer, Lawrence, Brian Sher, Stella Bulochnikov, Michael Green and Sam Maydew executive produce.
The FX series marks Grammer’s return to his Cheers/Frasier sitcom roots and his 20-year stint playing psychiatrist Frasier Crane, a role which earned him four Emmy Awards. Meanwhile Lawrence toplined an eponymous sitcom at Fox for 5 years. He segued to movies following the success of the 1995 Bad Boys but tested the TV waters during the 2011-12 season with a CBS deal that yielded a comedy pilot. Both Grammer and Lawrence are repped by UTA.
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