'This Just In' time for primetime berth

HOLLYWOOD — Male-oriented cabler Spike has greenlit the primetime animated comedy “This Just In,” its third original cartoon, from scribe Steven Marmel (“The Fairly OddParents”).

Order is for six episodes of the series, which revolves around three best friends as they riff on the day’s current events.

Marmel will exec produce the half-hour with Kevin Kay, Spike’s exec VP of programming and development. Pair worked together on “OddParents” when Kay was exec VP of production and development at Nickelodeon.

“I wanted to do for comedy what Dick Wolf does for drama — ripped-from-the-headlines stories, done in a funny setting,” Kay said.

Flash animation

Toon will be done entirely in Flash animation, enabling it to be written, produced and animated in a single week. Traditional animation typically requires months of production.

“Technology finally caught up with the idea. Now we can have storylines that happen this week and air at the beginning of next,” Marmel said. “It’s perfect for what we wanted: a smart, funny, 22-minute editorial cartoon from the perspective of three guys. If ‘This Just In’ was on the air next week, we’d be going to Iraq with Bush and talking about Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton.

“The goal here is to have the characters quoted in the news the next day, much like Jay Leno and David Letterman are,” he added. “We want to take the snap and topicality of a latenight monologue and put it into a cartoon.”

Male bonding

Characters are a freelance journalist, a teacher and a househusband. News and events aside, show also will deal with the friendship between men nearing middle age, Kay said.

“It’s about that time in a guy’s life when your friends are starting to get married and pulled away, but you still need to bond. It’s very much a fit for our audience,” he said.

Channel’s other original toons are “Stripperella” and Grammnet-produced “Gary the Rat.”

“This Just In” likely will be paired with upcoming talker “The John Henson Project,” giving Spike an hour of topical comedy.

While no official target airdate has been set, cabler plans to premiere the show some time in first-quarter 2004.

Marmel is co-writing the bigscreen adaptation of Nick toon “The Fairly OddParents,” with series creator Butch Hartman. He has been a columnist for USA Today and regularly does standup comedy around Los Angeles.

Marmel is repped by the Gotham Group and Judi Brown of Power Management.

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