Fox Broadcasting is stuck on Peter and Bobby Farrelly, pacting with the sibling team for a half-hour comedy series based on the life and persona of scribe Ricky Blitt.
Net has made a series commitment to the 20th Century Fox TV project, a “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-like laffer focusing on a thirtysomething Hollywood telemarketer who finds showbiz success when a script he writes is picked up and turned into a hit skein.
“It’s largely autobiographical,” Blitt said. “It’s about someone who’s making money and meeting a lot of famous people, but he’s still not getting laid.”
Or, as Peter Farrelly put it: “This is basically ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ before Larry David made it. This is that guy (David) coming up, and not as handsome.”
Both Blitt and the Farrellys expect Blitt will play himself in the skein, though an official decision on casting won’t be made until Blitt tapes a formal screen test and execs at the studio and net sign off on the idea.
Project reps the first primetime project for the Farrelly brothers, who will co-write, direct and exec produce both the pilot and series via their Conundrum Entertainment banner. Conundrum’s Bradley Thomas will serve as a producer on the untitled project, which is targeted for midseason.
Fox has greenlit production of the pilot, with a financial penalty attached if the pilot is not then ordered to series.
Blitt came up with the idea for the show over a year ago, with the Farrellys coming on board after Blitt asked them to take a look at a first draft of the script.
Farrelly said he liked the early draft, but “I told Ricky, ‘This thing could be ten times better and you should be in it. He was going with a character that wasn’t all him.”
Blitt and the Farrellys pushed the sitcom project until completing “The Ringer,” a Blitt-penned and Barry Blaustein-helmed feature pic about the Special Olympics on which the Farrellys served as producers. It’s slated for release later this year, as is the Farrellys’ Matt Damon-Greg Kinnear laffer “Stuck on You.”
Getting the TV project picked up wasn’t too tough, Blitt said.
“I slept with (Fox and 20th execs) Sandy Grushow, Gail Berman, Dana Walden and Gary Newman, all at the same time,” he said. “Not to bite the hand that feeds me, but I was by far the most generous in bed.”
Not surprisingly, given its auspices, skein won’t be typical sitcom fare, Blitt said.
“The whole series will be based on one humiliation after another,” he said. “But it’s not going to be downbeat. It’s about a guy who’s able to get away with murder because he’s very likable.”
Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman said the skein’s out-there nature is exactly why she picked it up.
“It’s an extraordinarily different worldview, a unique point of view for a comedy,” she said. “And while I keep saying it’s important for us to have a balanced schedule, we are Fox. It’s in our DNA, and it’s an obligation to our audience to push the comedic envelope.”
Risk-taking at Fox
Newman, who serves as prexy of 20th with Dana Walden, echoed Berman’s emphasis on the need for risk-taking in comedy.
“These guys all scare us to death, which is why we hope we’re on to something good,” he said. “You have to take risks in this world. Shows have to have a pure voice, a pure vision to stand a chance to break through all the clutter. If it doesn’t make us a little nervous, it’s probably too middle of the road.”
Fox and 20th have bet on Blitt before, greenlighting the Johnny Galecki starrer “Becoming Glenn” a year ago. Script was one of the most buzzed-about of its development season, but the project didn’t get ordered to series.
Blitt was also a writer-producer on the net’s animated laffer “Family Guy.”
Farrelly said he and his brother, who are both repped by CAA, haven’t been actively seeking a way into television but rather became involved in the Fox skein because of their relationship with Blitt.
What’s more, “When I see ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ it gets my juices going about doing TV,” Farrelly said. “I’ve call Larry to tell him that a few times. It’s to the point that when he hears me on the line, his voice sinks.”
Sibling duo will remain involved in the series after the pilot, likely writing three or four scripts per season and oversee the writing of other episodes. “This is a way for us to be involved in television without selling the farm,” Farrelly said.
Skein won’t be celeb-dependent, but it will likely feature cameos from famous faces in order to highlight the difference between the lead’s dual lives as an Important Hollywood Writer and someone whose “best friend still works at Kinko’s,” Blitt said.
Pilot even has a role for onetime Farrelly collaborator Cameron Diaz; the lead character falls in love with the actress. Farrelly and Blitt said they’d love to get Diaz, though Farrelly said he hasn’t yet talked to the actress about the idea.