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‘Uncle’ calls CBS home

Eye's enthusiasm won over creators in bidding war

CBS has said yes to “Say Uncle,” a much sought-after half-hour offbeat family comedy from “Frasier” producer Jeffrey Richman and “Just Shoot Me” creator Steve Levitan.

Richman and Levitan are currently writing the script for the project and both will serve as exec producers for the 20th Century Fox Television skein.

At least two other webs were interested in “Uncle,” which is being targeted for fall 2001 but could go as early as next spring. Eye won the bidding for the show by making a put pilot commitment, and agreeing to a slightly larger-than-usual license fee agreement. A substantial penalty also applies if “Uncle” is not picked up as a series.

The show revolves around “a successful gay man with expensive white furniture and zero paternal instincts who inherits his teenage nephew and niece,” said Richman, who came up with the idea for the laffer after his sister made him the guardian for her son and daughter.

“I’m a gay man (and) I started thinking about what I would do if I had to step up to that responsibility,” he said.

Richman said he immediately took his idea to Levitan, with whom he had worked when both were scribes on “Frasier.”

“The show addresses some of those feelings straight people have when they walk into a gay friend’s perfect living room and think, ‘It wouldn’t be so perfect if he had kids,’ ” Levitan said.

CBS won the battle for “Say Uncle” because of its enthusiasm for the idea behind the show.

“When we pitched it to Les (Moonves, prexy of CBS), he called to say he wanted it before we were out of the parking lot,” Levitan said. “He got it. And all we cared about was who was most excited about the show and would be willing to support it when it got on the air.”

UTA, which reps both Levitan and Richman, brokered the deal.

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