Comedy Plans Weekend Late-Night Block

Looking to create a lab for experimental fare, Comedy Central next year will launch a weekend late-night block of original programming, officials said last week.

Pursuant to its plans, Comedy has green-lit pilots for four potential series for the block, which most likely will kick off on Friday nights and could expand to Saturday.

The network plans to commission as many as eight or nine late-night pilots, said Comedy senior vice president of original programming and development Debbie Liebling. The weekend late-night block will debut in the second quarter of next year.

Comedy general manager Bill Hilary wants to use the late-night weekend slot as a place to test riskier, more cutting-edge comedy programming.

"We cannot stop being innovative," he said. "Late night will be our laboratory to experiment with wild and different ideas. Some of it will migrate to primetime."

Because the weekend late-night shows will have lower budgets-and the daypart isn't as cutthroat as primetime-Liebling said the new original block "will be distinctive won't be as polished or slick as you'd find in primetime."

The exact time and duration of the late-night block remains to be determined, though it could possibly air from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. That depends on which series get the go-ahead, Liebling said.

One of the first in the group of green-lit pilots is
Let's Bowl!

Produced in Minneapolis, it's a game show in which competitors will battle for prizes such as used cars. High-profile bands will play during breaks in the bowling action; Soul Asylum is booked for the pilot.

Let's Shop America

is a live half-hour of real people selling actual products and services to viewers. The third late-night pilot is
The Hot Show,

a comedy-variety hour hosted by newcomer Tim Woodsmen.

The After Hours Club

is the fourth offering. It's set in an offbeat café in which the band Lust Pollution takes the stage, and lead singer Madame invites other comedy acts and guest stars backstage.
The After Hours Club

will be improvisational, but will have some "loose" story lines, Liebling said.

Last week, Comedy said it acquired the broadcast rights to
The American Comedy Awards,

which aired most recently on the Fox broadcast network. Hilary said Comedy will put its own "edgy, contemporary spin" on the awards show, which will air April 25.

"It will be hipper and younger," he said. Hilary's game plan is for Comedy to televise four big events a year, each one serving as "a tent pole for each quarter."