Cabler buys five series including 'Dilbert,' 'Clerks'

NEW YORK — Comedy Central has brought smiles to the faces of Columbia, Warner Bros., Disney and Paramount by purchasing reruns of TV series that were gathering cobwebs on the studios’ shelves.

The network has bought “Dilbert” (30 half-hours) from Columbia, “The Ben Stiller Show” (13 half-hours) from Warner Bros., “Clerks” (only six half-hours) from Disney and “Gary & Mike” (13 half-hours) from Paramount. Comedy Central also bought a fifth busted network-primetime series, “Undergrads” (13 half-hours), from Decode Entertainment.

The UPN’s “Dilbert” is the only series of the five that lasted for more than one season on its original network. Except for “Stiller,” the series are animated programs aimed at young adults.

“These series all fit our brand. (We’re) always on the lookout for edgy, provocative entertainment,” said Bill Hilary, exec VP and G.M. of Comedy Central. “We’re the anti-network network,” he said — a stance that makes most of the mainstream sitcoms on the broadcast nets inappropriate for rerunning on Comedy Central.

For example, Comedy Central took a chance on reruns of “Sports Night,” the ABC series from Imagine Entertainment that drew critical praise but failed to find an audience for two seasons from 1998 to 2000. The reruns also flopped on Comedy Central.

“Gary & Mike” and “Undergrads” begin their runs on Comedy Central Nov. 3 and play every Sunday at midnight. “Dilbert” and “Clerks” will replace them in the time period starting Feb. 3.

“Clerks” will also get a one-time-only six-episode marathon, highlighted by four half-hours that never played on ABC. Marathon will take place Sunday, Dec. 22, beginning at 9 a.m.

The network will schedule “The Ben Stiller Show” initially as part of a “Holiday Relief” stunt, in which it’ll run twice a day for five straight days starting Dec. 21.

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