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Comedy Central Writes New Script

Comedy Central, already
known for its stand-up comedy,
animated fare and satirical
news shows, will turn to the traditional
scripted comedy genre
this summer to make its audiences
The Aug. 17 launch of scripted
comedy series Big Lake marks a
shift in strategy toward more narrative
shows to supplement current
hits like popular animated
series South Park; stand-up showcase
Comedy Central Presents; and
late-night satire show The Daily
Show With Jon Stewart
, said Kent
Alterman, head of original programming
and production.

While Comedy has experimented
with scripted comedies
in the past — most recently last
year’s Michael & Michael Have Issues
and Krod Mandoon and The
Flaming Sword of Fire
, as well as
Emmy nominee The Sarah Silverman
— the network has
yet to develop a breakthrough,
live-action scripted series.

“When it’s done right, a signature
[scripted] series can really
propel a network and ignite viewership,
but it’s an area that Comedy
Central hasn’t really developed
much of historically,” said Alterman,
who produced scripted series
Strangers With Candy for the
network in 1999. “I think it’s a great
opportunity for us. When you do
a scripted series, you have an opportunity
to create characters that
can evolve and the audience can
get invested in and have some
real longevity for the series.”

Big Lake
, produced by the Will
Ferrell and Adam McKay-headed
production company Gary Sanchez
Productions, stars Chris
Gethard (a member of the Upright
Citizens Brigade improv
troupe) as a discredited financial
whiz kid who finds himself crashing
on his parents’ couch drumming
up get-rich-quick schemes
after he loses all of his father’s retirement

Big Lake is interesting in that
it’s a very traditional-looking sitcom
but with a contemporary,
off-center comedic sensibility,”
Alterman said.

While Alterman would not project
how well the show will perform,
he did say the 10-episode rollout
will balloon to an additional 90
shows if Big Lake can meet an unspecified ratings number. The show
will go up against heavy competition
on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. — am
hour that includes such top-rated
shows as TNT’s HawthoRNe and
USA Network’s White Collar — but
Alterman believes it provides an alternative
to cable dramas, particularly
for the network’s targeted
18-to-34-year-old male viewer.

“There’s competition every
night, so at a certain point there’s
only so much you can control,” he
said. “We’re hoping that Big Lake
will continue our efforts to create
programming that resonates with
that [young male] audience.”

The network also has a second
scripted series in the works
dubbed Workaholics — which follows
three friends fresh out of college
who live and work together as
telemarketers — that will premiere
in January 2011, and is looking at
several other scripted projects.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.