Sketch series ends run after 14 seasons

Fox is closing the book on “Mad TV” after 14 seasons.

Net confirmed Wednesday that the Saturday night sketch series, which had barely escaped cancellation in recent years, will end its run at the end of this season.

News comes soon after Fox announced plans to end the run of another long-running comedy franchise, “King of the Hill.” But just as “King” may land a new home at ABC, the producers behind “Mad TV” are mulling ways to keep their show alive.

“There’s been great interest in recent years,” said exec producer David Salzman. “We’ve had a number of networks inquire as to whether the show was coming off Fox and saying that they’d be interested. We have not started to talk to them yet, but now is the time to begin those conversations. I think we have real prospects, but you never know, especially given the economy.”

According to Salzman, production on “Mad TV,” which received a shortened order this season, was set to wrap by December. The net decided to inform the show’s producers of its decision now, rather than in May, in order to give them a chance to end the series with a bang.

“This will give us a proper sendoff, a chance to promote the finale and bring back old cast members,” Salzman said.

Fox told Salzman the decision to ax the show was an economic one.

“They said it was too expensive for a daypart where dollars have been shrinking,” he said. “Their thought was, the show is what the show is, and that essence needs to be maintained — but it’s hard to produce as big and ambitious a show as ours for less money than they’re paying now.”

In potentially shopping the show to other broadcast or cable outlets, Salzman said he’ll look at ways to modify production and bring down costs.

Meanwhile, Comedy Central’s deal to air reruns of “Mad TV” expires at the end of the year. Salzman said he hopes to find a net interested both in producing new episodes and airing the show’s 326-episode library.

QDE, a joint venture between Salzman and Quincy Jones, launched “Mad TV” in 1995, utilizing Mad magazine’s irreverent brand. Show, designed as a competitor to “Saturday Night Live,” was created by Fax Bahr and Adam Small, who left after the show’s third season.

John Crane, Salzman and Jones currently serve as exec producers. Season to date, the show has averaged 2.7 million viewers and a 1.2 rating/4 share among adults 18-49; both are unchanged from last year.

“Mad TV” made a name for itself with its pop-culture parodies; alums include Nicole Sullivan (“Rita Rocks”) and Frank Caliendo (“Frank TV”).

Current cast includes Arden Myrin, Bobby Lee, Crista Flanagan, Keegan-Michael Key, Nicole Parker and Johnny Sanchez.

Fox will likely decide the fate of its other Saturday latenight franchise, “Talkshow With Spike Feresten,” in May. With “Mad TV” history, that makes it more likely the net will stick with “Talkshow” — unless it develops other projects for the timeslot.

“Mad TV” reps Fox’s most successful foray by far into latenight programming. After several tries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the net hasn’t attempted a return to the late weeknight landscape. (That could change next year, as NBC’s “Tonight Show” transition opens the door to several shuffles.)

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