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TruTV Gives Greenlight To Its First Sketch-Comedy Series

TruTV has greenlit its first-ever sketch comedy show, “Friends of the People,” part of an effort to diversify its programming and raise the production values of its shows, said Chris Linn, president and head of programming for the Time Warner-owned cable outlet.

The network has ordered 10 episodes, including the pilot, with plans to launch the series in summer 2014. Friends of the People is produced by 3 Arts Entertainment and Marobru Productions. The series stars comedians Kevin Barnett, Jennifer Bartels, Jermaine Fowler, Lil Rel Howery , The Lucas Bros. and Josh Rabinowitz.

“Friends of the People” is executive-produced by 3 Arts Entertainment’s Michael Rotenberg and Avi Gilbert; Marobru’s Michele Armour and showrunner/director Neil Punsalan. The cast members also serve as writers and executive producers, with Josh Rabinowitz and Kevin Barnett as head writers.

“If you think about the shows the network had been known for, this is definitely a significant shift, and I think one our audience has been looking for,” said Linn, in an interview. While TruTV isn’t looking to become a comedy network, he said, the network would like to “lean a bit more on comedic content versus conflict-driven content.”

“Friends of the People” will include scripted comedy sketches and man-on-the-street interviews.

Pick-up of the program follows the network’s articulation last year that it would devote about half its schedule to a genre it called “comedic reality,” or programs that examine the funnier side of real life.

Linn, who joined the network in August, aims to move even further into new areas. “We are moving into new genres, new formats,” he said, which could include docuseries to be announced at a later date. “We really have been given freedom here in the evolution of our future to take some big risks.”

In February, TruTV announced a greenlight for a ten-episode run of “Motor City Masters,” a reality competition series that pits auto designers against each other in a contest to devise a new vehicle. General Motors’ Chevorlet was listed as a collaborator in the production, which is hosted by Brooke Burns.

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