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Dog shingle barks up NBC’s tree

Australia

SYDNEY — TV shingle Working Dog is responsible for that rarest of Australian achievements — selling a format Stateside.

In a country more used to the flow of content coming from the U.S., “Thank God You’re Here” has been picked up for a pilot by NBC for its coming season.

Rob Sitch, Michael Hirsh, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner are behind Working Dog, which also has sold “Thank God” to more than 10 territories including Denmark, Holland, Germany and Israel.

The format’s concept is simple. Send well-known performers, generally comedians, through a door into a scene without any idea of what they’re walking into. Thesps must improvise their way through the next five minutes.

“I think people have lost their nervousness about taking something from somewhere else,” says Sitch.

Hirsh agrees: “It’s like outsourcing research and development: You see something and lower the risk of it not working if it works in other territories.”

Skein, which has been averaging auds of 1.8 million per week and 2.6 million for the finale, has been a huge hit for Ten network, and made its mark in new media as well.

Sitch noted during production that three- and four-minute segments are “about the length of a pop song,” and this bite-sized format has made it Oz’s No. 1 downloaded TV program.

In March Working Dog inked with FremantleMedia, which has been repping “Thank God” at the markets.

“We had one of those dream situations where in our first meeting with Fremantle they took the series,” Hirsh recalls.

Now Fremantle, which also recently inked to rep Working Dog laffer “All Aussie Adventures,” says the skein is outpacing “The Apprentice” in international sales and is “the fastest rollout of the year, for any format.”

Working Dog has had hits in the past with yakker “The Panel” and with features “The Castle” and “The Dish.”

But the big question is: Will “Thank God” work in the States?

“I feel it is just as likely to work there as anywhere. It feels like it’s an idea for the times,” says Sitch.

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