Deal calls for comic to develop sitcom for indie distrib

George Lopez is ready to follow in Tyler Perry and Charlie Sheen’s footsteps, inking a TV development deal with Debmar-Mercury.

Deal calls for the comic to star in a comedy for the indie distrib, which aims to set the project up with a cabler under unusual model that it pioneered several years ago with Perry’s skeins.

Debmar will cut a deal for an initial 10-episode order, with the understanding that if the show hits certain ratings thresholds, the cabler will order 90 more. That in turns allows Debmar to sell the off-net rights to the show to local stations much earlier than a traditional network sitcom.

Debmar-Mercury, a unit of Lionsgate, declined comment.

The whopping back order arrangement allows Debmar and its creative partners to produce segs at an accelerated pace, allowing for savings on production costs. Debmar has scored with its “10/90″ formula on three Perry skeins produced for TBS — “House of Payne,” “Meet the Browns” and “For Better or Worse” — and it fielding Sheen’s TV comeback through FX with “Anger Management,” slated to bow this summer.

The Lopez project is still in the formative stage, with no writer yet attached. The comic will co-create the project and exec produce with his manager, 3 Arts’ Michael Rotenberg through Lopez’s Travieso Prods. banner. It’s expected to be in the family-friendly vein but nothing is set is stone.

Lopez is coming off a nearly three-year run as the host of TBS latenight yakker “Lopez Tonight,” which was axed by the cabler last August. He toplined the ABC domestic comedy “George Lopez” from 2004 to 2007. The laffer has become a strong player in reruns for Nick at Nite, which will undoubtedly be a selling point for the new show.

Lopez is repped by CAA, 3 Arts and attorney Don Walerstein.

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