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Partners in ‘Love’

TBS microseries builds on Canuck format

Canuck comedy format “Love Bugs” is about to burrow its way into the U.S. via a multipronged deal involving J. Walter Thompson, TBS, Paul Reiser — and a new shampoo.

The original French-language series aired in Canada for six years, and reversioning rights have been licensed by format specialist Distraction to 30 countries.

JWT unit JWTwo Entertainment has picked up Stateside rights to the show from Distraction and is partnering with “Mad About You” star Reiser and its own ad client, Unilever, to create a micro-series to debut in September on TBS.

The JWTwo initiative is part of a trend among consumer product makers and their ad agencies to commission original material or refashion existing formats that likely wouldn’t air without their financial support.

It’s also another indication of stepped-up involvement by ad agencies and clients in programming, either through product placement or more subtle forms of advertising and sponsorship.

JWTwo also is readying a second project, the animated “Flex and Zephyr,” which has been picked up by Comedy Central.

The content JWTwo is creating is in harmony with the target audience for the products being launched — in the case of the female-skewing “LoveBugs,” a shampoo called Sunsilk. The concept for “Flex and Zephyr” emerged directly out of the ad agency’s development unit and has not yet been linked to a particular product.

From the ad agency side, the deals were put together by Peter Isacksen and Stuart McLean, co-presidents of JWTwo Entertainment. No financial terms were made available.

Isacksen told Daily Variety the 30-second spot is no longer what it used to be. “We have to think differently, and one of the ways is to work with great Hollywood talent.” (Isacksen’s background is in both acting and producing programming.) JWTwo’s “LoveBugs” format has been retitled “Love Bites” and will be produced by JWTwo and Reiser’s Nuance Prods.

“Love Bites” will center on witty young couple Max and Katie. Episodes are being specifically written and shot for outlets beyond TBS, including in-store, email, online and mobile wireless — arguably the first time a cable show has been crafted for the new-media landscape.

TBS has committed to 13 episodes comprising 65 segments that will be run daily throughout primetime and daytime. Each segment is 90 seconds in length.

There will be no actual product placement in the show but rather sponsor identification in the credits.

(Denise Martin contributed to this report.)

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