Peacock pops ‘Downer’ for laffs

Martin-Stein hybrid first out of gate at C-W

NBC has ordered six episodes of the tentatively-titled “the downer channel,” a half-hour sketch comedy/animation hybrid from Steve Martin and Joan Stein’s Carsey-Werner-based production shingle.

The show is being targeted for a midseason or summer 2001 debut and will mix scripted sketches, darkly comic animated segments and “reports from the real world,” according to creator Michael Halpern.

The d-list

“It’s everything that starts with the letter ‘d’: depression, denial, downloading and dad,” Halpern said.

In addition to a regular cast of players, “the downer channel” will also feature a roster of guest thesps and scribes.

NBC exec VP of primetime series development Karey Burke called the Martin/Stein skein a “groundbreaking way to try a sketch comedy in primetime,” and mixes elements of “Laugh-In” with “Monty Python.”

“The point-of-view of the show really is a comic celebration of the foibles and pains of all of us,” Burke said. “It’s the kind of comedy package that doesn’t come through the door every day.”

Martin and Stein inked a three-year overall deal with C-W last May. Pact established the duo’s Martin-Stein Co. and called for them to develop and exec produce primetime series for the indie studio. Show reps the Martin/Stein Co.’s first project since starting at C-W.

Rapid ramp-up

“When Steve and I came to Carsey-Werner three months ago, we wanted people to know that we were very serious about this new venture,” Stein said. “We are thrilled to have such a unique project moving ahead so quickly with NBC.”

Before teaming with Martin/Stein, Halpern was an exec at HBO, where he helped develop pics such as the Emmy-nominated “RKO 281.”

Martin, Stein, Halpern, Robert Morton, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach are executive producers of “the downer channel.” Show is a joint production of the Martin/Stein Co., Panamort Prods. and the Carsey-Werner Co.

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