Comedy Network unveils development slate

Production executive Sarah Fowlie gives intel about the projects in development and why they were selected.
Russell Peters

In looking for new shows for the Comedy lineup, the development team keeps a sharp eye out for shows that have both main net and niche channel appeal, says Sarah Fowlie, production executive, Comedy.

As such, the five new shows just green-lit for development by the channel all have a nugget of main-net potential, she tells Playback Daily. Included in the new development slate are: Spun Out, The Russell Peters Christmas Special, The Tim Steeves Project, Hotz D.V.M and Satisfaction.

“CTV has had a lot of success with comedy and the people who program CTV have a real appreciation for it, so we’re trying to satisfy that for them,” she says. “CTV schedules are something that we keep in mind when we approach this stuff.”

Noting that multicam sitcoms for adults are in short supply in Canada – and that the model works well in the U.S. – Fowlie said Spun Out, which revolves around a disgraced writer who joins a PR firm, fit the bill in all the right ways.

Created by Brent Piaskoski (The Latest Buzz, Radio Free Rosco), Jeff Biederman (Overruled!, Mudpit) and Brian K. Roberts (Dan For Mayor, Everybody Loves Raymond), their TV credits primarily boast multicam series for younger audiences. If Spun Out moves ahead, it’ll be produced by Andrew Barnsley (Hotbox) from Project 10 Productions.

“They [Piaskoski, Biederman and Roberts] had success this side of of the border and south and brought in this concept,” says Fowlie. “We wanted people who were excited about multicam itself – not just people who wanted to try it.”

Also going into development is the one-off variety show, the Russell Peters Christmas Special, featuring stand-up, sketch, animation and musical performances, along with international and Canadian performers.

Although specials are difficult territory to navigate, Fowlie says, the chance to work with Peters (pictured) was irresistible.

“We have a lot of respect for what Russell does – he’s an extremely funny guy with good taste and we wanted to know who he’d want to work with and how it would work,” she notes.

Bringing Canadian perspective to the news-comedy genre is The Tim Steeves Project which Fowlie admits will likely be compared to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but actually bears a closer resemblance to Real Time With Bill Maher.

“When you’re doing a show like that, you need to have someone who’s not just a performer – you need someone who can write with authority and someone who has good people around them,” says Fowlie, “[Steeves] had that combination of great on-camera, great on-stage, he can write and has that ability to really connect with an audience, but also understand the process.”

The Tim Steeves Project will be penned and hosted by stand-up comedian Steeves, whose credits include Talking To Americans and The Rick Mercer Report, along with Greg Eckler (The Rick Mercer Report, Little Mosque) and Mark Farrell (Dan for Mayor, Corner Gas).

More star-powered comedy includes the half-hour scripted Hotz D.V.M., featuring actor/stand-up Jeremy Hotz, about a neurotic man who moves home to open his own veterinary practice. Fowlie says that audiences respond to Hotz much in the same way they do Russell Peters.

“He says things in a way that no one else does, but wish you had,” she quips, adding that the strong team behind the show increased its allure. So far on board for Hotz D.V.M are producer/director/writer Troy Miller (Flight of the Conchords, Bored to Death, Parks and Recreation) and producer Jodi Lieberman (Just For Laughs).

Rounding out the slate is half-hour scripted sitcom Satisfaction from screenwriter Tim McAuliffe (Dan For Mayor, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Up All Night) which looks at the complicated relationship between a twentysomething Montreal couple and their single roommate.

“We’d been dancing around the idea of doing something with Tim for years,” says Fowlie.

“His script is close to our hearts: when you’re young, post-university, transition period and you say, ‘what’s everyone around you doing, what are you doing, how does that compare?’ His characters are fantastic and have a voice that’s funny, but will connect in an intelligent way with audience. The sweet spot is doing something that works for your demo, but isn’t exclusionary in any way, and Tim can deliver that.”