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TBS to Develop Original Sitcoms

New York -- TBS is plunging into scripted-situation-comedy development.

The “very funny” network, which has lowered its average viewing age to 37 and become the top-rated cable network among adults 18 to 34,is gearing up for a pair of fourth-quarter entries, and has a couple of others in development as it looks to supplement its proven lineup of acquired comedies.

Steve Koonin, executive vice president and chief operating officer for TBS/Turner Network Television, said that in the two years since it adopted its comedic leanings, TBS now trails only the Big 4 broadcast networks in reaching the aforementioned demo. The network, which has ridden the strength of Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld, Friends and Sex and the City to attract a younger viewing base, is now “jumping into scripted sitcoms.

“Our investments in original program will continue to bring these younger viewers,” he said, during an interview preceding the upfront presentation for TBS and TNT here on Tuesday evening.

Coming up in the fourth quarter: My Boys and 10 Items or Less.

The former, executive-produced by Gavin Palone, (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Gilmore Girls) and Jamie Tarses, centers on P.J. (Jordana Spiro, JAG) a Chicago sportswriter who resides in a world where most of her friends are male. Her gruff, tomboy-like qualities, however, have been known to scare off potential suitors. TBS has ordered 13 half-hours from Sony Pictures Television and Pariah.

For its part, 10 Items or Less, from the creators of mockumentary Memron, combines scripted and improvisational elements as John Lehr (Memron) stars as struggling businessman who takes over the family supermarket business after the death of his father. His management style lends itself to chaos among the food cases. TBS has ordered five installments from Sony Pictures Television.

In the scripted comedy pipeline: My Embarrassing Life, a coming of age story of a 14-year-old boy who endures ridicule in school and a quirky family at home, while trying to manage his first real crush; and Larry Miller Project, in which the stand-up comedian will provide a unique take on suburbia as he plays a husband with two kids and a newspaper column.

Noting that comedy is “very subjective,” Michael Wright, senior vice president of original programming for TBS/ TNT, said TBS has examined the threads between its extant acquired lineup and in turn is pursuing original shows that build off great “character relationships. We’re just beginning the development process at TBS, and are always going to be selective about the number of scripts we’re working on at any time.

He said in terms of “tone and sensibility,” TBS would look to avoid punch-line and gag-driven projects and hopes to be “constant with relationship-based comedy.”