'Raymond' scribe, Romano working on return
HBO has sealed a rich two-year pact with “Everybody Loves Raymond” scribe Mike Royce — who is already conjuring up new ideas with “Raymond” star Ray Romano.Royce’s deal — pegged in the mid-seven figures — locks him up to exclusively develop and produce skeins for the cabler. First up, Royce and Romano are bouncing around various ideas for the thesp’s return to the small screen. “We’re not looking to repeat ‘Raymond,’ which would be impossible anyway,” said Royce, who was an exec producer on the last two seasons of the CBS laffer. “But we’re looking at what kind of direction we might go that would be comfortable for both of us,” he said. “We’ve known each other for a long time, so it will be interesting to see what we can turn out.” Royce’s HBO pact, which begins in January, keeps him inhouse at the network where he last was exec producer-showrunner on “Lucky Louie.” Both “Louie” and “Raymond” were produced by HBO Independent Prods. “I’ve never not worked for HBO. The basic lesson of this whole deal is I’m afraid of new things,” Royce quipped. As for “Louie,” HBO’s first stab at a multicam sitcom had its fans, but also drew a number of pans from crix and was not renewed for a second season. Royce credits HBO for taking a chance on something new. “We always knew it was going to be a polarizing show,” Royce said. “We always knew that there would be people who loved it or hated it…. For HBO, to experiment and do something that was so different, it was a really bold move.” Still, he said, “We had some really loyal fans. I’m glad to have worked on a show that people felt passionately about.” Pact gives Royce an opportunity to do some of his own development. “It’s time to open up the notebook,” he said, noting he hasn’t been able to do his own projects in the six years he worked on “Raymond” or while he was on “Louie.” “I have a lot of build-up,” he said. Meanwhile, HBO is said to have passed on a comedy project reported over the summer from scribe Dennis Klein and “24″ creators Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran that would have starred Romano as a fortysomething billionaire who has six months to live. Before “Raymond,” UTA-repped Royce wrote for “Spin City.” He currently is working on the ABC Ted Danson starrer “Help Me Help You.” Royce also is repped by Cary Hoffman and Jared Levine.