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Sitcoms: The Next Generation

It’s never too early to find the next soon-to-be-canceled comedy, which is why the broadcast nets are knee-deep in sitcom scripts this time of year. The focus of the yuks remains family life, but with a twist: CBS is developing a show about a gay man who cares for his niece and nephew, and is retooling a BBC show about a blue-collar clan who never leaves the living room. UPN’s got a comedy starring RuPaul as a nanny, while NBC has a Once and Again-style divorcé story in the works from Mad About You’s Paul Reiser. True to form, Fox is keeping it edgy: King of the Hill’s Mike Judge is creating a live-action, Wild Kingdom-style show starring a talking ape and his human co-host. And there’s no shortage of stars looking to make their prime-time debut in sitcoms. Jim Belushi (who currently appears in Showtime’s Beggars and Choosers) wants to headline a comedy for ABC, while David Keith, Peta Wilson, Hank Azaria, and Sisqó (yes, Mr. Thong Song) are hoping to get a comedic green light at NBC. The same goes for Nick Turturro and Cheri Oteri at CBS and Tori Spelling at The WB. Meanwhile, ABC – which has Brett Butler’s return vehicle in the works – is also looking for a few good men: It has several male ensemble comedies on the drawing board, including one from Ed Burns. ”We want to find writers who have something original to say about men and relationships, but it’s hard,” says one Alphabet insider. You don’t have to tell us that – we saw Madigan Men.

Two Live Crews

Now that the game-show craze has just about run its course, how’s this for the next trend in prime-time television: live series? Two improvisation-heavy live shows are gearing up for fall: Jason Alexander is producing one for Fox about a soap opera set in a hospital, and NBC’s developing a half hour from Bruce Helford and Drew Carey about a young money manager who works for a rock star. The latter is expected to star the Eagles’ Joe Walsh (as the rocker), and if it gets picked up, it would run live in all three TV time zones. ”When most shows went live in the olden days, it wasn’t so exciting after a while. Now it’s a novelty,” says Helford, who’s sharpened his skills by exec-producing live telecasts of The Drew Carey Show. ”It could be either brilliant or a car wreck.”

AND SO ON … Don’t expect Denzel Washington to make his small-screen debut this fall, but his recent box-office hit Remember the Titans could become a new ABC drama if Jerry Bruckheimer has his way. In fact, several movies are up for grabs as possible fall series. Among them: My Dog Skip and My Cousin Vinny (both of which CBS has its eye on), The Tao of Steve (Fox), The Dead Zone and Mystery Men (UPN), and Richie Rich (WB).

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