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Comedy Ramps Up Its Pilot Production

New York— Comedy Central has given the green light to three shows from its spring development slate and is considering seven other pilots, network officials said last week.

At an informal press gathering in Manhattan, Comedy Central unveiled its roster of potential shows, including three pilots now being shot and set for completion by mid-March.

The development slate includes Reno 911, an improvisational take-off on reality shows like Cops; I'm With Busey,
a reality show in which a comedy writer spends time with unpredictable and volatile actor Gary Busey; Confessing It,
where everyone from celebrities to men on the street confess humiliating and embarrassing stories; and The Pat Kilbane Show,
a sketch program featuring the improvisational actor and comedian.

Comedy Central has already picked up Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn
for 20 weeks, said senior vice president of original programming and head of development Lauren Corrao. The half-hour late-night talk show, which the network tested for two weeks in December, will premiere March 10 at 11:30 p.m.

It will air Monday through Thursday, after The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
"We were looking for a show to pair with Jon that would give us an hour in late night," Corrao said later in an interview.

At the press briefing, Corrao noted that Comedy had increased its order for Trigger Happy TV
to 13 episodes from an original six. The show, a U.S. version of a British program in which outrageous stunts are played out in front of unsuspecting bystanders, debuts April 7 at 10 p.m.

Comedy Central has also green-lit 10 episodes of an animated half-hour comedy loosely based on the life of producer Bob Evans, who will voice his character. That show will premiere in October, in the 10:30 p.m. time slot Wednesdays.

Three other Comedy Central pilots are currently in production, including two for which comedian Denis Leary serves as executive producer: House Arrest,
a half-hour program in which comedians' jokes and stand-up routines are illustrated via animation; and a show featuring actors Lenny Clarke and Adam Ferrara.

The latter series chronicles the actors' efforts to get their careers back on track after the real-life cancellation of their ABC series The Job,
in which Leary starred. Corrao and partner Peter Tolan executive-produced The Job.

The third pilot that's still being shot is a sketch and variety show showcasing comedian Jim Breuer.

By the time Comedy Central is through, it probably will OK two or three additional shows, Corrao said.

Despite uncertainty about its future ownership, Comedy Central is spending more on programming this year, increasing its budget by 30 percent compared with 2002.

Ownership status

Last week, sources within Comedy Central were both perplexed by — and doubtful of — a New York Post
report indicating AOL Time Warner Inc. was looking to buy out Viacom Inc.'s stake in the comedy network. AOL Time Warner and Viacom Inc. jointly own Comedy Central.

AOL Time Warner declined comment last week, but the Post
report flies in the face of the media giant's previous statements. The troubled conglomerate has said it wants to sell some nonstrategic assets in order to reduce its debt.

AOL TW has reportedly held preliminary discussions about selling its Comedy Central stake to Viacom, which has stated publicly that it's in a buying mode.