Cabler to fast-track development of series

TV Land is fast-tracking a plan to develop a spinoff of its hit laffer “Hot in Cleveland” to star Cedric the Entertainer.

Cedric is set to lense a guest shot on “Cleveland” later this month. He’ll play a minister who comes into contact with the four housemates at the core of the ensembler that stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White.

After that episode is completed, “Cleveland” creator/exec producer Suzanne Martin and Cedric will collaborate on a pilot script for a spinoff revolving around the minister character. If TV Land topper Larry Jones and exec veep Keith Cox like what they read in the script, the show will be ordered straight to series, sans filmed pilot.

Cox had been courting Cedric to do a TV Land series as part of the cabler’s aggressive push into original laffers. But the thesp wasn’t keen on gambling with a traditional pilot development pact, so Cox and Martin hatched the plan for a spinoff prospect planted in a seg of “Cleveland.”

“I’m excited and looking forward to working with the talented team on ‘Hot in Cleveland,’?” Cedric told Variety. “I’m definitely going to have fun with this.”

The unusual path for the project is a sign of the confidence TV Land brass have in Cedric’s appeal and Martin’s skill as a writer. Insiders emphasized that the “Cleveland” spinoff scenario reps a unique opportunity, and is not a sign that TV Land intends to eschew pilots in the future.

Cedric’s guest shot seg is expected to air in August. The first half of “Cleveland’s” sophomore season aired from January-March. Show will return with 14 fresh episodes starting June 15.

“Cleveland,” which bowed last year to strong ratings and pop culture buzz, has led TV Land’s charge into original scripted series.

The Viacom cabler last month ordered two new laffers — Fran Drescher starrer “Happily Divorced” and divorced-guys ensembler “The Exes” — and renewed the fledgling “Retired at 35″ for a second season (Daily Variety, March 22). “Cleveland” was renewed for a third season in February, about a month after its second season bow.

Cedric is repped by CAA and manager Eric Rhone. Martin is repped by WME.

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