Fox seen annexing ‘South Central’

Hours after CBS passed on “South Central” Wednesday, Fox Broadcasting Co. reportedly snatched up the half-hour pilot as a midseason entry.

Written by Ralph Farquhar (“Married … With Children”) and Michael Weithorn (“True Colors”), “South Central” is a Twentieth TV comedy built around a struggling African-American family in the inner city.

Neither Fox Broadcasting nor Twentieth, both divisions of Fox Inc., would confirm the deal.

“South Central” producers, fearing “South Central” would get lost in the shuffle at CBS, had enlisted lobbyists in their efforts to get on the schedule, sending copies of the pilot to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bill Cosby, Spike Lee and others.

The comments elicited were meant to be used as a selling tool by Twentieth in meetings earlier this week with CBS.

D.C. mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly described “South Central” as being “straight from the living rooms of many urban households across the U.S. … If (it) had been on during the Reagan-Bush era, perhaps investment in the cities would have received a higher priority.”

It is not, however, the first project this development season to enlist the help of prominent African-Americans.

Norman Lear invited Jackson to a run-through of his CBS pilot “704 Hauser Street,” which hasn’t yet been picked up by the network.

And Ehrich Van Lowe, the executive producer of ABC’s “Where I Live,” orchestrated an 11th-hour public relations campaign to get his series renewed. Van Lowe, like Farquhar, went outside the traditional studio-network nexus for his support.

Van Lowe, who has written for NBC’s “The Cosby Show,” got in touch with Cosby , Jackson and a colleague at Black Entertainment Television, all of whom lobbied ABC brass.

“The Rev. Jackson’s call helped them make a moral decision, but it was a decision (ABC) wanted to make all along,” Van Lowe said.

Studios and producers have long used leverage to get series renewed and their pilots picked up. Minority executive producers trying to get their projects on web skeds thus feel justified in going to such lengths to attract network attention.

Farquhar, for example, does not feel that the letters he collected in support of “South Central” will give him the reputation as an arm-twisting pariah.

“If being a pain in the ass means being so passionately committed to your work that you will do anything to get it on the air, that should be a quality (a network) desires in any producer,” he said.