Leary, Chappelle shows unveiled at confab

Denis Leary, Dave Chappelle and Henry Winkler got greenlights from cablers Friday, while Alexander the Great was stopped in his tracks as the cable portion of the Television Critics Association press tour concluded.

Leary (“The Job”) and Chappelle (“Undercover Brother”), who are both collaborating with Comedy Central after bumpy experiences in the broadcast world, said they’re looking forward to making original fare for cable.

“I’ve done 10 pilots for broadcast and those guys never let you be funny,” Chappelle told the critics. “Plus the gay Mafia held me back,” he joked.

Here’s the latest cable news from TCA:

  • Comedy Central and Leary are teaming up on the 10-episode series “Contest Searchlight,” which debuts Aug. 14. The first four half-hour episodes will track a contest that was held this spring to find an aspiring TV creator with a great idea. The last six episodes will rep six segs of a series actually produced by the contest winner. Leary, Lenny Clarke, Tom Sellitti and Jim Serpico are exec producing. Leary’s production company Apostle is producing in association with Comedy Central.

    Addressing obvious similarities to the HBO/Miramax series “Project Greenlight,” Clarke said: “We’re like the Japanese. We’re taking things and improving on them.”

    Laffer net also ordered 12 episodes of “Chappelle’s Show” – an illustration of his joke book, the thesp said. Weekly half-hour created by and starring Chappelle is slated to premiere in January.

    Chappelle, who has appeared on the laffer net’s “Comic Justice” and the “Second Annual Comics Come Home,” is reteaming with his “Half-Baked” co-writer Neal Brennan to create the sketch skein. Chappelle, Brennan and Michelle Armour are exec producing.

    In addition to “Contest Searchlight” and “Chappelle’s Show,” Comedy Central acquired U.S. broadcast rights to 14 episodes of British series “Trigger Happy TV” to preem Aug. 22; it announced a pay-per-view event, “The South Park 5th Anniversary Special,” available starting Sept. 3 on In Demand, DirecTV, EchoStar and TVN; and it set Mon., Aug. 26, as the preem date of its Tracy Morgan spec, setting the stage for the new Morgan-hosted series “Comic Groove,” which debuts the following Monday.

  • HBO has put off indefinitely the epic miniseries it has been developing about Alexander the Great due to scheduling conflicts with Mel Gibson, a partner in the project.

    HBO also postponed the October premiere of the movie “Real Women Have Curves” while the net fields offers to distribute the movie theatrically.

  • Game Show Network has ordered 40 episodes of “Wintuition,” a knowledge-based game that offers contestants a chance to win $50,000 toward college tuition. LMNO Cable Group, Winkler and Sugar Bros. Entertainment will exec produce.

    During each episode, contestants spend the first two rounds answering general education questions beginning with first grade through middle school. In the third round, the two contestants with the highest scores put their high school intellect to the test. They compete for a chance to move into the final round, where the champion could win $50,000 in tuition money.

    GSN also ordered 40 episodes of “Cram,” hosted by Graham Elwood (USA’s “Strip Poker”), in which two teams of two players are required to study for 24 hours before launching the next day into four rounds of question-and-answer play. Contestants are quizzed on the reading material in a rapid-fire style while engaged in various physical stunts. “Cram” is exec produced by Jonathan Goodson and Mark Cronin.

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