Markus, Par link for laffs

Writer-producer to develop skeins for fall 2002

Writer-producer John Markus (“Lateline”) has sealed an exclusive overall deal with Paramount Network TV to develop and exec produce comedy series.

The new two-year pact keeps Markus firmly within the Paramount stable, where he most recently created and executive produced the NBC comedy “Kristin,” starring Kristin Chenoweth.

Markus will develop new sitcoms at Paramount targeted for fall 2002.

“I’m in the early stages now of formulating the concept for a show I’m creating,” he said. “I also have an urge to discover new talent in addition to working with established people. We’re thinking about going on a search to find people in the middle of the country.”

Markus, who won an Emmy, Peabody and two Humanitas awards for his work on “The Cosby Show,” is one of the most prominent TV comedy writers based in New York.

The NBC sitcom “Lateline,” which he co-created with Al Franken for NBC, was shot on the East Coast, as was “Cosby,” where he wrote or co-wrote 67 episodes and worked his way up to showrunner.

But Markus, who’s repped by UTA, said he was flexible to producing series on either coast.

“There’s still a healthy writing community here in the theater, some of whom want to get their feet wet in TV,” Markus said. “And it’s always great to stay in a city where showbiz isn’t the priority. But I’ll think of a show first and where I’ll do it second.”

Markus’ other credits include co-writing the Emmy-nominated “Ellen” episode “Ellen: Is She or Isn’t She?” He also served as a consulting producer on “The Larry Sanders Show” and co-created the “Cosby Show” spinoff “A Different World.”

Markus started his career writing for the toon “Mighty Mouse” and serving as a staff writer on the 1979 sitcom “Working Stiffs,” which starred Michael Keaton and Jim Belushi, and marked the first time he worked with Par.

“Paramount is a place that still takes risks and knows how to get the best performance out of guys like me,” Markus said. “It feels like home. And they give out great Christmas gifts.”

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