Producer's back with eight-figure deal
“Scrubs” exec producer Bill Lawrence has reunited with ABC Studios, which produces his long-running comedy.
Lawrence had one year left under his existing pact at NBC Universal TV Studio, but the Peacock opted to let the scribe out of his deal early.
Under the new eight-figure arrangement, ABC Studios will buy out that final year from NBC and add three more. As he enters his new deal, Lawrence will receive a multimillion-dollar advance and earn roughly $3 million a year.
Pact keeps Lawrence in charge of “Scrubs” — which narrowly made it back onto NBC’s sked next year, scoring a last-minute 18-episode order — for the show’s seventh and final season. He’ll also start developing new projects for the Alphabet studio (formerly known as Touchstone TV).
“My goal is to get a comedy on the air before the genre goes away for good,” Lawrence quipped.
Lawrence has spent the past seven years at NBC Universal TV Studio (and its predecessor, NBC Studios) — although all along he has steered the ship on the critically acclaimed “Scrubs” for ABC Studios/Touchstone.
That made for an awkward scenario in which Lawrence continued to work for ABC and Touchstone as the “Scrubs” leader, even though he was being paid by NBC (which allowed him to continue on the show, since it aired on the Peacock) under his overall deal there.
“I don’t necessarily feel like I’m leaving NBC and going to Touchstone, I’m just now getting paid by the people I’ve been working for during the past six years,” he said.
With his focus on “Scrubs,” Lawrence’s output at NBC U TV Studios was small, although he did create the buzzworthy project “Nobody’s Watching” — which started as a WB pilot before becoming an Internet sensation. The online success of “Nobody’s Watching” sparked NBC to rework it last year under Lawrence’s command as a series of Web-only shorts. (NBC eventually passed on doing more with it.)
This spring, with NBC expected to cancel “Scrubs,” and ABC ready to pick it up, Lawrence decided it made sense to go ahead and move his deal to the Alphabet studio. That’s why he was stunned when NBC decided to pick up “Scrubs” anyway, even though he was no longer under contract at the Peacock.
“The reason I left NBC with a year left on that deal had nothing to do with personalities,” he said. “When I made the decision at the time, I was trying to protect ‘Scrubs.’ I figured it was more likely ‘Scrubs’ would continue on ABC if I worked for that studio.”
With NBC picking up just one new comedy for next season, Lawrence and his reps also wondered whether there was enough room at the network to develop new laffers. The Peacock was willing to let him go, as it’ll still receive episodes of “Scrubs” helmed by him but will no longer have to pay him a hefty salary.
Now, as he plots the final season of “Scrubs,” Lawrence is also mapping out his future development. One project in the works is a semi-autobiographical single-cam comedy.
But Lawrence, who co-created the long-running hit “Spin City,” is also bullish on the multicamera comedy arena, even as the nets continue to shy away from the more traditional sitcom brand.
“It’s almost impossible to get one through the system right now,” he said. “To us and to the business, multicameras look old hat. But I don’t think anyone believes that except for people in L.A. and New York. I’d love to try and be the guy who snuck a traditional multicamera sitcom back on TV. That’s the thing that’s going to turn the tide.”
Given his “Nobody’s Watching” experience, Lawrence hopes to also dabble more in the online arena — perhaps midway through the development process grabbing a camera and uploading shorts to YouTube to introduce his concept and characters before even getting picked up.
“Why wait and try to launch that show in a vacuum? Next time we have that opportunity, I want to put it up and get people invested into characters before it even premieres,” he said.
Lawrence has pulled off a rare double in his career, overseeing two comedies that have made their way to syndication: “Scrubs” and “Spin City.” Lawrence also worked on shows including “Friends” and “Champs.” More recently, he also exec produced MTV’s “Clone High USA.”
Lawrence is repped by ICM and Howard West.