Twentieth Century Fox TV is taking a bright interest in the guys behind cult comedy fave “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Studio has sealed a two-year overall deal with “Sunny” creators Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton. As part of the deal, Fox has already greenlit their comedy pilot “Boldly Going Nowhere.”
Separately, ABC gave a pilot order Thursday to “Cupid,” Rob Thomas’ new take on his 1998 Alphabet romantic dramedy of the same name.
As for the “Sunny” team, 20th Century Fox TV chair Dana Walden said she felt that it was “clear that they’re going to have big careers.”
“The work they do on ‘Sunny’ week in and week out is extraordinary,” Walden said.
At Fox, “Boldly Going Nowhere” won’t be shot until October, so McElhenney, Day and Howerton will have time to first complete their duties on the fourth season of “Sunny” for FX.
The single-camera half-hour is a high-concept laffer set in the future and focused on the mundane world of a spaceship captain when he’s not on a mission. Fox has ordered five additional scripts beyond the pilot.
“We grew up watching shows like ‘Star Trek,’ anything having to do with the future, and it was always about the adventures they’d go on,” McElhenney said. “We thought it would be funny to watch what goes on in between those adventures, when they’re waiting for the next big thing to happen. How do they keep themselves busy?”
Pilot is based on an idea that came from “Sunny” writers’ assistant Adam Stein; as a result, Stein will get a “written and created by” credit alongside the “Sunny” guys.
McElhenney, Day and Howerton are also set to exec produce, along with Michael Rotenberg and Nick Frenkel; RCG, and 3 Arts will produce with 20th Century Fox TV.
“I wish it was less rare that when you get a comedy script, you laugh out loud,” said Fox Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly. “This really felt like a bull’s-eye for Fox. It’s a concept I’ve seen developed before badly, many times. These guys nailed it.”
Unlike “Sunny,” the trio don’t plan to star in “Boldly Going Nowhere,” which they said will contain characters that greatly vary in age, sex and race.
McElhenney, Day and Howerton — who christened their company RCG, after the first letters in their first names — began talking to 20th about a deal before the strike, but such a pact was put on hold during the work stoppage.
After the strike was over, “We sat down and wrote the script in two or three days,” McElhenney said. “As soon as it was done, we told 20th we had a script idea and asked 20th if the deal was still available, and they said yes.”
McElhenney said signing on with 20th also helped avoid any logistical problems in continuing with “Sunny,” since that show airs on a fellow News Corp. property. The next 13-episode season of “Sunny” will be shot this summer for a fall bow.
“We didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or shoot ourselves in the foot for neglecting our duties on ‘Sunny,'” he said. “It’s what got us here in the first place, we’re proud of it, and our faces are all over it.”
Deal with 20th also marks the first time RCG has made its home at a major studio; “Sunny” is produced by FX Prods. and 3 Arts.
“We’ve been hearing from (FX topper John Landgraf) and the people at FX about how talented they are,” Walden said. “John was a lot of the reason we made the deal with them. He expressed a great deal of faith in them as developers.”
As for “Cupid,” pickup is cast contingent. ABC Studios is behind the show, along with Sony Pictures TV (which produced the original Jeremy Piven-Paula Marshall starrer). Thomas sealed a deal last fall with the net to redevelop the skein (Daily Variety, Oct. 3).