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TNN gets in toon with adult auds

Cabler picks up 'Gary,' 'Ren & Stimpy'

Viacom’s TNN: The National Network has fallen in love with adult-oriented animation, commissioning six half-hour episodes of “Gary the Rat,” featuring the voice of Kelsey Grammer, and buying reruns of “The Ren & Stimpy Show.”

Both series will anchor a primetime block of animated series on TNN to begin early in 2003, said Diane Robina, executive VP and general manager of TNN, at an upfront briefing for reporters on Tuesday.

“Gary the Rat,” about an unscrupulous New York attorney who wakes up one morning to discover he’s turned into a 6-foot rodent, began life as a couple of Internet shorts on MediaTrip, which has since folded. Besides doing the voice of Gary, Grammer will be co-executive producer of the series with writer-creators Rob and Mark Cullen.

TNN has bought the cable rerun rights to the 52 half-hours of “Ren & Stimpy,” the cult-hit Nickelodeon series that ran 1991-95. TNN is negotiating with John Kricfalusi, the creator, to produce more episodes.

Other animated series in development for the primetime block include “Joe Duffy,” from Nelvana Prods. and Ed. Weinberger, about an Archie Bunker-type blue-collar malcontent; “Stripperella,” from Stan Lee (“Spider-Man”), featuring an animated Pamela Anderson as “a stripper by night and a superhero by later night”; and “The Immigrants,” from Klasky Csupo Prods. (“Rugrats”), about the comic foibles of a Russian and a Mexican immigrant trying to make it in Los Angeles.

TNN also confirmed previous reports that it has greenlit two weekly series for its Saturday primetime lineup. The first is a 20-episode commitment to “Oblivious,” a tongue-in-cheek gameshow starring Regan Burns, decked out in various working-man disguises, who tries to get average people to casually answer questions, not realizing they’re being taped and will win money if they get the correct answers.

Stone Stanley Entertainment produces “Oblivious,” which replaces another gameshow called “What Would It Take,” which TNN passed on after initially ordering 20 episodes. A spokesman for Stone Stanley said the company already has sold the local-franchise rights to “Oblivious” in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Israel and the Scandinavian countries.

The second TNN original series is “Slamball,” from Tollin/Robbins Prods., a hybrid sport featuring athletic young men bouncing around on a large trampoline court and dunking basketballs on their opponents. “Slamball” has a six-hour commitment, beginning Saturday, Aug. 3, at 8.

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