Writers raised to exec producers on show

Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend are staying in the “House” at NBC Universal.

Scribes have inked a multiyear overall deal that will keep them at the Peacock’s studio arm through 2009. Just as importantly, pact will raise Lerner and Friend to exec producers on the NBC U TV-produced “House,” which is in a race to catch “Grey’s Anatomy” and end the season as TV’s No. 1 scripted series in adults 18-49.

Lerner and Friend have carved a niche for themselves as the moral voices of “House,” penning a number of segs dealing with ethical dilemmas — such as whether to give treatment to a death row inmate played by LL Cool J.

“They handle the procedural elements just as well as the character elements, which not everyone can do,” said Laura Lancaster, senior veepee of drama/cable programming for NBC U TV Studio.

Exec called the duo “amazingly versatile writers. They know how to bring the really in-depth character writing that is the core of what ‘House’ is all about.”

Lerner and Friend went to film school at USC together and became writing partners in 1995. After trying features for a while, they shifted to television via a stint on the Sammo Hung skein “Martial Law.”

Gigs on “Roswell,” “Boston Public,” “John Doe” and “LAX” followed. They’ve been with “House” since the show’s first season.

Scribes said the “House” gig has been particularly satisfying, which is why they hope to stay put on the skein for at least a few more years.

“We’ve sort of achieved our dream of landing on a smart show that people are watching,” Lerner said.

Friend added that while “House” remains their chief priority, “We’d like to one day develop stuff that’s as intelligent as ‘House,’ maybe another character-based procedural.”

Lerner and Friend are repped by UTA.

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