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Stern, CBS pact for sitcom ‘Kane’

Firstrun comedy could fill latenight slot

Howard Stern’s down, but not out, at CBS.

The Eye and its syndie distributor King World are developing a firstrun syndicated comedy with Stern’s production company that could fill the Saturday latenight slot vacated by the recently canceled “The Howard Stern Radio Show.”

“Kane” will follow the antics of an oddball Southern family and its strong-willed patriarch. The lead character’s life is altered when his previously long-lost wife returns home to him and their group of eccentric children.

Ron Zimmerman (“7th Heaven,” “V.I.P.”) is on board to pen the script, while Stern will exec produce. CBS’ network comedy team are overseeing the project’s development; insiders promise the show will push some content boundaries thanks to its potential late-night time period.

CBS and King World are still determining whether “Kane” will be developed as an hour or half-hour skein. There is also a slight chance that “Kane” could end up a candidate for primetime duty on the CBS network.

Deal comes as the hourlong syndicated “Howard Stern Radio Show” goes off the air after this weekend (Daily Variety, Nov. 15). Stern lambasted CBS CEO Leslie Moonves on his radio show Thursday for the cancellation.

There will be no seamless transition between the old show and the new show, however. No pilot has been shot as of yet, although sources said it’s in “very active development.” Eye execs are targeting the weekly laffer for later this season or the beginning of next season.

Insiders say CBS’ owned-and-operated stations are on board to pick up “Kane.” Beyond that, stations that ran “Howard Stern Radio Show” will be given first crack to clear the show. For now, those stations are scrambling to fill the post-Saturday night news slot with other programming.

CBS’ sister Viacom company King World has distributed “The Howard Stern Radio Show” since the company merged with CBS and absorbed former CBS syndie arm Eyemark.

The show now is seen in about half the country, although it preemed in August 1998 on stations repping about 70% of the country. Skein has seen its distribution level sink due partly to some local stations’ concerns about the often risque content. Ratings also have waned over the years, and the show has been in repeats since August.

Producing a half-hour comedy would not be new to Stern, whose “Son of the Beach” continues to work for cable net FX. But “Kane” would be the first weekly sitcom in syndication in years. Once a staple of the genre (“Charles in Charge,” “Small Wonder”), firstrun laffers have all but disappeared from syndication.

In other CBS news, the net hopes to boost frosh laffer “The Ellen Show” by giving it a Monday timeslot throughout December. It will air at 8:30 on Dec. 10, 17 and 24 and at 9:30 on Dec. 31.

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