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Levitan pacts with Peacock

'Shoot Me' creator signs deal for new show in '99

NBC has stepped up to secure the next project from “Just Shoot Me” creator Steve Levitan and 20th Century Fox for fall 1999.

Sources say NBC has committed to pay a premium license fee on 13 episodes of a new Levitan sitcom, despite the fact that there’s not yet a script, concept or actors attached.

The deal is similar in scope to the one given to the creators of “Friends” and “Frasier” for their new sitcoms this season. Like those deals, Levitan is guaranteed production and a launchpad on one of the network’s two best nights, Tuesday or Thursday.

Running the show

The deal also secures that Levitan will continue to run “Just Shoot Me” all of next season, and he’ll retain the title of executive producer for the life of the show.

“Just Shoot Me” is NBC’s latest comedy hit, and the series will face its first major test in the unprotected Tuesday 9 p.m. timeslot this fall, when “Frasier” moves to Thursday. Reps for Levitan may have wanted to get the new series deal done before fall, while buzz for “Just Shoot Me” is still very high.

The deal is significant to 20th Century Fox TV, which hasn’t had a comedy series at NBC in many years. Bucking the trend toward total vertical integration, 20th will now potentially have big comedy franchises at ABC and NBC — networks that compete with its sister Fox Broadcasting Co.

Fox worthy?

Sources said that at some point, 20th will probably try to have Levitan do some work on a show for Fox.

“Tuesday and Thursday on NBC continues to be the top launching pad for situation comedies anywhere on TV,” said Sandy Grushow, president of 20th Century Fox TV. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity.”

NBC, for its part, retains an Emmy-winning writer who has worked on three successful series at the web, “Frasier,” “Wings” and “Just Shoot Me.” Levitan began his career as a staff writer on “Wings,” where he rose to co-executive producer. He also served as a co-exec producer on “Frasier,” and he wrote for HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show.”

“There’s no question in my mind every network would make a very sizable commitment to be in business with Steve Levitan,” said NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield. “He convinced (20th Century) Fox not to even go out into the marketplace. He said his home is at NBC, and we feel terrific about it.”

Levitan is repped by UTA and attorney Sam Fischer.

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