Don’t knock your kid’s favorite sitcom on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon: Chances are those saccharine punchlines you hear from the mouths of babes come courtesy of the same scribes who once made you laugh at adult-oriented hits like Friends and Mad About You. The dearth of comedies on broadcast TV has prompted scores of out-of-work writers to flock to the kiddie cable networks, where multicamera shows like Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place and Nick’s iCarly are thriving, thanks in no small part to their seasoned writing staffs. ”It’s the new frontier,” says Andy Gordon, a former member of the Back to You writers’ room who now executive-produces True Jackson, VP, a Nickelodeon comedy debuting in November that stars Akeelah and the Bee’s Keke Palmer as a 15-year-old fashion mogul. ”The broadcast networks are nervous all the time, and it poisons the process. I’m never nervous here because we got picked up for 20 episodes. I’m not living in fear that I’ll be canceled after three weeks.” Of course, his new gig is not completely stress-free. Since his hiring budget is limited, Gordon has had to turn away network-trained dialogue and story writers seeking employment — even though some of them were willing to take a pay cut. And he may see a lot more applications hitting his in-box by Halloween. ”I’m in the same building on the Paramount lot with [NBC and CBS freshman comedies] Kath & Kim and Worst Week,” says Gordon. ”They’re nice people…but if they don’t perform in [their first] three weeks, we’ll be the only ones left in the building.”
— Lynette Rice
Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti likes to joke that his new side project, Little Joy — named after a popular L.A. bar — is ”basically a front just to bum beers.” But with an album due this November, even he realizes it’s time to get serious. ”Right now, my focus is on this,” he says. ”Little Joy is my band, and I have all my heart and love in it.” But what does that mean for his regular gig? Moretti says the Strokes are planning to gather in February and start working on new music. As for the rumor that veteran producer and Sony BMG label exec Rick Rubin will have a hand in their next album? The name was thrown around, says Moretti. ”He made some pretty seminal records. But before there’s a sketch done, we’re not going to choose the color.”
— Shirley Halperin
Robert Downey Jr. may soon goose the genre that launched his comeback. The Iron Man star is in negotiations to voice a character in Master Mind, a send-up of the superhero genre being made by Ben Stiller’s production company, Red Hour Films. Tina Fey is also expected to join the cast of the movie, about a villain who loses his will to live after accidentally killing his archrival. Neither actor is a newcomer to animation: Downey lent his voice to an episode of Family Guy and the film A Scanner Darkly, while Fey voiced a burrito in the film version of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Master Mind is based on a script from Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, and will be directed by DreamWorks Animation veterans Cameron Hood and Kyle Jefferson. One request, guys: no references to Stiller’s failed 1999 superhero spoof Mystery Men. The world does not need more Mr. Furious.
— Nicole Sperling
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