CBS puts passed-on pilot on the Web

Eye thinks 'Papdits' is perfect for online auds

After two years in development hell, comedy pilot “The Papdits” is finally getting a chance to find an audience.

Reality-scripted hybrid written by “Da Ali G Show” scribe Ant Hines concerns what happens when a fictional family from Kashmir interacts with ordinary Americans during a cross-country RV tour of the U.S. Hines exec produced it with Sony and Bull’s Eye Entertainment’s Tom Nunan and Cathy Schulman (“Crash”).

CBS passed on “The Papdits” last May. But starting today, the roughly 20-minute pilot will begin streaming for free on the Eye’s Innertube broadband channel. Net also is making clips of “The Papdits” available to Verizon wireless subscribers via the latter company’s V Cast service.

“It’s the first time that, instead of just letting (a pilot die), we’re putting something online with the intention that it could reside there and grow there,” said CBS Paramount Network TV Entertainment Group prexy Nancy Tellem.

Online exposure reps a major triumph for the project, which has taken what Tellem called “a circuitous journey” to the Net.

“The Papdits” began life at Fox, which gave Hines and Sony a six-episode commitment back in November 2004. But the project died not long after Gail Berman left the network.

Then, last year, CBS decided to revive “The Papdits,” agreeing to redevelop the concept for either the Eye or now-dead sibling UPN (Daily Variety, Nov. 9). When it came time to make a decision on a series greenlight, however, CBS decided the show was simply too out there for its relatively mainstream aud.

But Tellem said Eye execs were hard-pressed to simply dismiss the show, which prompted serious laughter in the net’s screening rooms last May.

“The response was really positive. We wanted to figure out a way to get it out there,” she said, “instead of letting it go to one of those dead-pilot places.”

Execs quickly decided it made sense to put the Sony/CBS Par show on the net’s Innertube broadband service. Rather than just throw it on immediately, however, net opted to wait a few months in order to piggyback the online premiere of “The Papdits” with the release of another, similarly themed project: “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

“Borat” creator Sacha Baron Cohen had nothing to do with “The Papdits,” but the two projects both mix elements of scripted comedy and documentary. What’s more, Hines was a writer on “Borat,” which promises to become a media phenom this week following its jaw-dropping box office perf over the weekend.

While it’s highly unlikely the Innertube exposure will lead to a CBS berth for “The Papdits,” Tellem doesn’t hesitate when asked whether more episodes of the project could end up on Innertube.

“Absolutely,” she said.

In the meantime, CBS has given Hines a vote of confidence, inking a deal with the scribe to develop a new project for next season.

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