Studios are hoping that international buyers show up in Los Angeles this week primed to laugh, with plenty of new comedies on parade at this year’s L.A. Screenings.
The screenings are international buyers’ first chance to get a look at studio offerings fresh off of the networks’ upfront presentations last week in New York. While many networks abroad are already set up with so-called “output” or “volume” deals that call for them to take whatever the studio is producing that year, many other international nets have the ability to pick and choose.
“I think it’s complicated for all of us,” says Keith Le Goy, international distribution prexy for Sony Pictures TV, which sold four series to broadcast networks this year: NBC’s “Save Me,” Fox’s “The Mob Doctor,” CBS’ “Made in Jersey” and ABC’s “Last Resort.”
“Broadcasters are always trying to weigh the value of their commitments to output deals. Some people like to be married and others like to play the field. We are ready to do both as situations present themselves.”
Comedy continues taking more of the spotlight this year, after “2 Broke Girls” and “New Girl” broke out in 2011-12. NBC alone picked up seven new comedies: three from parent studio Universal, two from 20th Century Fox, one from Lionsgate, and Sony’s aforementioned “Save Me,” starring Anne Heche.
Universal’s three are “Go On,” starring Matthew Perry, “The Mindy Project,” which is headed to Fox (written, exec produced by and starring Mindy Kaling of “The Office”) and “Animal Practice,” featuring Justin Kirk (“Weeds”) as a veterinarian.
“When international buyers are looking at shows, they are all looking for the next ‘Friends,’ ‘Big Bang’ or ‘The Office,'” says NBCUniversal International TV Distribution prexy Belinda Menendez. “The slate that we’re offering in terms of the comedies is really broad, and that’s compelling to international audiences.
NBC’s biggest risk this season is probably Warner Bros.’ sci-fi drama, “Revolution,” which comes from Jon Favreau, J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”).
“We’ve got very noisy, distinctive shows produced by people who have been doing this for a long time,” says Warner Bros. International Television Distribution prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger. “These people know how to get a show on the air and keep it there, while keeping it fresh.”
ABC ordered five comedies, with four on the schedule for fall. All but one — 20th’s “How to Live with Your Parents,” starring Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”) and scheduled to premiere in January — come from ABC Studios. Of those, ABC appears to be placing the biggest bet on “The Neighbors,” about a gated community inhabited by aliens posing as people, which won the plum post-“Modern Family” slot. Dan Fogelman, who wrote theatricals “Cars,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Tangled,” created the series and is exec producing.
“We have a mix of comedy, serial and procedural this year,” says Ben Pyne, global media distribution prexy for Disney Media Networks. “We’ve had incredible success internationally with our serialized shows,” he says, such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Once Upon a Time.”
Lionsgate likes its chances with “Nashville,” which stars Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights”) as an aging country singer.
“It’s ‘Dallas’ or ‘Dynasty’ for the new generation,” says Lionsgate international managing director Peter Iancono. “It’s big — big profile, big budget.”
CBS and Fox, each having fewer needs than the other two networks, picked up five comedies between them.
Fox will use 20th’s “Ben and Kate,” from the creators of “New Girl,” and Universal’s “The Mindy Project” in its two-hour comedy block on Tuesdays.
“For the first time in our history, we have all comedies,” says 20th Century Fox International Television prexy Marion Edwards. “That attests to the fact that every network in the U.S. is looking to build a comedy night. It’s good for us that a lot of that is coming from Fox.”
Fox is known for taking big chances on its dramas — last year taking shots with “Terra Nova,” “Alcatraz” and “Touch” — and this year is no exception: In January, it will premiere Warner Bros.’ serial killer thriller, “The Following,” starring Kevin Bacon, said to be one of the “most chilling” pilots anyone has seen in years.
CBS, the most steady of the broadcast networks, only picked up four new shows for fall: three dramas — “Vegas” (starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis), “Made in Jersey” and “Elementary” — and one multicam comedy, Warner Bros.’ “Partners.”
• New shows for 2012