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NATPE 2009: TBS Picks Up 'Meet the Browns'

NATPE '09: Complete Coverage from B&C

TBS has ordered 80 episodes of Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Perry said Tuesday at NATPE in Las Vegas.

TBS would not confirm, but a spokeswoman said a deal is imminent, while other sources said the deal is all but done.

Meet the Browns, which is adapted from the theatrical film starring Angela Basset, premiered on TBS on Wednesday, Jan. 7, in a ten-episode test run. The first two episodes marked cable’s second-highest premiere for an original sitcom behind only Perry’s House of Payne premiere in June 2007.

Six episodes into its test run, the show ranks as ad-supported cable’s top comedy in January among adults 18-49 and adults 25-54, averaging 3.4 million viewers, 2.2 million households, 910,000 adults 18-34, 1.9 million adults 18-49 and 1.8 million adults 25-54. It’s also television’s number-one scripted series among African-American viewers, households, adults 18-34 and adults 18-49, according to Turner.

Once the test-run is over, TBS is expected to premiere the show this summer as a companion to House of Payne. Like House of Payne before it, Debmar-Mercury plans to take the show out to broadcast stations for a fall 2010 premiere.

Perry, who has two sitcoms on the air and two movies coming out this year, doesn’t plan to stop there. “Do you want to own a network?” asked B&C Executive Editor Melissa Grego during a panel. “Yeah, yeah, I do,” said Perry, who’s been cited frequently for being an entertainment maverick and proving that different business models can work. “That’s Jon Feltheimer at Lionsgate over there and we’re going to do it.”

Perry also told his side of the story with regard to four writers that he says he removed from his staff because he was unhappy with their work. The four complained to the Writers Guild of America that Perry fired them because they sought union status; Perry disputes that charge. After the WGA held protests prior to his movie premieres, Perry and the WGA resolved the matter and drew up a contract in late November.

“I am happy with the deal I ended up with but the way we had to get to it wasn’t cool,” he said.

Perry has deals with every union and is himself a member of the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild and the Teamsters but says he will never be a member of the WGA due to the messy negotiation.

“I’m not Sony or Disney. I wasn’t asking for any special circumstances other than me being treated as the independent I am,” he said.

Perry also said he will never screen his movies for critics because “it’s expensive.”

“I staged Madea Goes to Jail at the Kodak Theater and hosted critics from the LA Times and Variety. Each saw the same play from virtually the same seat. The LA Times said it was the worst thing that had ever happened to the Kodak Theater, while Variety said it was the best thing he had ever seen. I realized that it’s all just a person’s opinion. Am I going to pay for someone to see one of my movies to tell me they don’t like it? No. I get millions of messages on my message boards from people all over the world. That’s who tells me what they want to see.”