Tom and Roseanne Arnold have entered into an exclusive TV production agreement with Warner Bros. TV, bringing along their first-look, multiple-series commitment from ABC.
The deal expands a relationship between the Arnolds’ Wapello County Prods. and Warner Bros. that began with their short-lived collaboration on “The Jackie Thomas Show” and continues with the upcoming CBS comedy “Tom,” both starring Tom Arnold.
Initial projects coming under the new deal include proposed comedy pilots for “Roseanne” co-star Sandra Bernhard (as a different character from the one she plays on the show) and a sitcom featuring the musical group En Vogue — who, like the Arnolds, are represented by the William Morris Agency, which shepherded the pact. Both concepts are in development for ABC.
The Arnolds cemented their four-series first-look agreement with ABC last May — despite the acrimony surrounding the network’s cancellation of “Jackie Thomas”– stating their desire to establish Wapello as a “mini-studio” on the order of Desilu. Except for its non-exclusive component, the deal is believed to be similar to agreements with star producers like Steven Bochco or James L. Brooks, carrying substantial penalties for each project not ordered as a series.
Terms weren’t disclosed, but that sort of network commitment would undoubtedly dictate a multimillion-dollar studio payout.
“We shopped (the deal) around pretty good,” said William Morris exec VP and West Coast head of television Bob Crestani, adding that the Arnolds were attracted to Warner Bros. TV based on their past relationship and the aggressiveness with which the studio pursued them.
The En Vogue vehicle, described as an ensemble comedy, is being written by Amy Sherman from “Roseanne.” Another “Roseanne” producer, Steve Pepoon, wrote the prototype for “Tom,” which will tape next month and is expected to premiere shortly after the Winter Olympics in February. As with the baseball playoffs, CBS intends to use the two-week sports spectacle as a promotional platform for its midseason shows.
“Roseanne,” in its sixth season on ABC, remains one of TV’s highest-rated shows. The network has yet to set a deal with its supplier, the Carsey-Werner Co., beyond the current season, but holds a first-negotiation position on the property, which figures to attract ample attention from the other networks.
It’s undetermined whether Roseanne Arnold would be available to star in one of the future series commitments after “Roseanne” has run its course, and the emphasis now is on the Arnolds as producers. The comedienne has signed with Carsey-Werner to headline the show through the 1995-96 season.
In addition to his midseason sitcom, Tom Arnold is shooting the 20th Century Fox feature “True Lies.”