FX Ready to Roll ‘George’

FX hopes to both broaden its audience and reach Hispanic-Americans with its new comedy, Saint George, starring George Lopez.

The show, distributed by Debmar-Mercury and produced by Lionsgate Television, will start as a 10-episode test on Thursday, March 6, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. If Saint George hits a certain ratings threshold— which is approximately 1.3 million viewers among adults 18- 49, according to sources—FX will pick up an additional 90 episodes.

“We think Lopez is a total television star,” says Ira Bernstein, copresident of Debmar-Mercury.

From 2002 to 2007, Lopez starred in and produced Warner Bros. sitcom The George LopezShow, which aired on ABC and went into broadcast and cable syndication. After that, he hosted Lopez Tonight on TBS from 2009-2011.

While Lopez portrayed a traditional husband and father on The George Lopez Show, he plays a recently divorced man in Saint George. His character, who also happens to be named George Lopez, has made millions selling the country’s fifth-most-popular energy drink. George gives back by teaching night school in downtown Los Angeles.

He has an (almost too-) amenable relationship with his beautiful ex-wife, MacKenzie, played by Justified’s Jenn Lyon, and they share custody of a child, Harper (Kaden Gibson). While George is perfectly happy to remain single for a while, his uncle Tio (Danny Trejo) and his cousin Junior (David Zayas) have other plans for him that find him running around in bars more than he really wants to be.

Meanwhile his mother, Alma (Olga Merediz) lives with him, and dealing with her requires a large degree of patience.

Saint George was created by Lopez, Matt Williams and David McFadzean. All three executive produce, along with Michael Rotenberg, Dete Meserve and Judd Payne.

Testing One, Two

Saint George is FX’s second test of the 10-90 concept; its first was Anger Management, starring Charlie Sheen, in summer 2012.

“Doing the 10-90 model is geared toward creating content that can fill up hours across the week,” says Chuck Saftler, FX Networks president of program strategy and chief operating officer. “These shows also match the brand that FX already has put forward with such acquired series as Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother and Mike & Molly,” the last of which FX will premiere this fall.

In order for Debmar-Mercury to make its 10-90 model work, the shows first have to clear that pre-determined ratings threshold. Once that happens, a contractual clause is triggered that requires the acquiring network to purchase the show. Airing those first 10 episodes allows Debmar-Mercury to take a concrete ratings performance to TV stations.

The difference between what Debmar- Mercury does with its 10-90 model and what major studios do when they sell sitcoms to TV networks is that Debmar-Mercury requires a 90-episode commitment up front, instead of waiting four years until the network has ordered enough episodes to take the show into syndication.

That all-important syndication piece is why Debmar-Mercury focuses on multi-camera sitcoms with a male point of view. “Historically, single-camera, female-led sitcoms don’t have a repeat value,” says Marcus.

Saint George also brings other advantages: Lopez is a well-branded star who can bring his own audience, and the show should appeal to English-speaking Hispanic-Americans.

“That Hispanic appeal is incredibly important,” says Saftler. “Programming that has an Hispanic point of view is an underserved genre.”

Saint George also will pair with Anger Management, which has aired on FX without a complementary show for its entire run on Thursdays.

Anger Management has existed as an island without a companion program,” says Saftler. “These two shows will give viewers an opportunity to watch a very enjoyable hour.”

FX likes the 10-90 model enough that it’s taking at least two more chances on it: After Saint George premieres, the network will do a similar test this summer with Braddock & Jackson, an Odd Couple-like sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence. Debmar-Mercury also is working on a show starring Kevin James, but no network is yet attached to that show.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.