Peacock, Lorre will laff it up

Producer signs on for $850K an episode license fee

It’s love at first sight for NBC and Chuck Lorre: The Peacock has made a big bucks, 13-episode on-air commitment to a new romantic comedy from the “Dharma & Greg” creator.

Agreement reps Lorre’s first efforts for Warner Bros. Television since inking a huge overall deal with the studio last year. NBC stepped up in a major way to snag Lorre, agreeing to pay a hefty license fee of around $900,000 per episode. That’s about $200,000 more than the nets usually shell out for first-year sitcoms, but right in line with what NBC pays for premium talent such as Lorre.

“Chuck is a one of the few premier producers out there,” NBC Entertainment topper Garth Ancier said. “He’s had a great record of starting and running successful shows. We’re thrilled that he’s coming to NBC. We fought hard to get him.”

Comedy will follow the exploits of an LAPD bomb squad officer who meets and falls in love with a movie star while in recovery at the Betty Ford Clinic. It could air as soon as midseason 2000-01, though fall 2001 is more likely.

Landing Lorre is a major coup for NBC, which will need to replace aging hit comedies such as “Friends” and possibly “Frasier” and “Just Shoot Me” over the next two years. With his track record, having created “Dharma” and “Grace Under Fire” for ABC and “Cybill” for CBS, Lorre had several nets interested in working with him.

Indeed, Fox Broadcasting Co. early last month made a preemptive move to snag Lorre’s next show, even before hearing what the scribe-producer had in mind (Daily Variety, Aug. 18.) When Lorre pitched the show to Fox, however, both sides agreed the concept skewed a bit beyond the net’s younger audience.

“The two leads are simply too old for Fox,” Lorre said. “I happen to have a great deal of affection for (Fox Entertainment prexy) Gail Berman, and was hopeful I’d be able to work with her. But this was never a good fit at Fox because of the nature of the material.”

After Fox passed, NBC and CBS both immediately jumped in with offers, with the Peacock ultimately emerging victorious in the bidding.

“NBC’s perfect for this. It’s an adult comedy, a show about adults with some real problems,” Lorre said. “NBC just exhibited a great deal of enthusiasm and passion for the project. I just felt, ‘Oh great, they get this,’ and I felt like it was a perfect match. The tone of the material fits their sensibilities. That’s encouraging.”

As for the show’s cop-meets-movie star concept, Lorre called his two main characters “deeply, deeply dysfunctional people with a great deal of baggage.

“For me, its a series about people trying to find salvation through a relationship.”

Lorre said the characters’ alcoholism, and even the female protagonist’s fame, will take a back seat to the show’s relationships.

“The situation at the beginning of the series quickly evaporates,” he said. “I’m trying to put together a series about two people really beginning to grow and come into their maturity as the series begins. I don’t want to do a series about alcoholism but about people finding themselves.”

Lorre is repped by Broder Kurland Webb Uffner.