'Rules' creator to develop new projects for the studio

Finally, “Rules of Engagement” creator-exec producer Tom Hertz can take a breath and focus on fielding new projects under the three-year overall deal he’s inked with Sony Pictures TV.

Hertz has held off on development to focus on keeping “Rules” on the air. That was an uphill battle during the show’s first few seasons, when the couples ensembler bounced all over the Eye’s schedule following its debut as a midseason entry in 2006. The laffer from Adam Sandler’s Sony-based Happy Madison banner also lost key momentum when the writers strike hit in 2007-08.

This past season, “Rules” landed its first fall slot, which gave Sony the confidence to begin selling the showin syndication. It’s now cleared in 75% of U.S. TV households for a fall 2012 debut, and there’s sure to be a cable deal down the road.

Now that the show is on firmer ground, Hertz is prepping to develop for the coming pilot season, though he will continue as showrunner on “Rules” in its sixth season. He recently directed several segs of the laffer and intends to do more in the coming season.

“Now that we’ve finally gotten over the hump and are getting the show sold in syndication, it’s a big sigh of relief for all of us,” Hertz said.

He had no hesitation about staying with Sony Pictures TV after all the support he’s received from programming toppers Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht and comedy chief Glenn Adilman. “We’ve all sort of stuck it out together on the long bumpy road,” he said.

Hertz has been under an overall deal at Sony since 2007. Before creating “Rules of Engagement,” he served as the showrunner on ABC’s “Spin City” and CBS’ “The King of Queens.” The first series Hertz created, “Married to the Kellys,” had a one-season run on ABC in 2003-04.

Hertz is repped by WME, manager Cary Hoffman and attorney Jared Levine with Morris Yorn.

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