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Reality fever hits cartoons

Skein mixes 'Real World,' 'Big Brother' with toon icons

It had to happen: Comedy Central has ordered eight episodes of “Drawn Together,” the first animated “reality” show.

Former “The Man Show” scribes Matt Silverstein and Dave Jeser will write and exec produce the skein, which takes elements of “Real World” and “Big Brother” and puts toon characters into classic reality situations: i.e., lots of drinking, fornicating and backstabbing. Skein will play out as if it were an actual reality skein in which toons from different genres and styles had been brought together to live under one roof.

“Anything adults can do on a reality show, we want our characters to do,” Jeser said. “You haven’t seen cartoons having sex or bulimia.”

The animated housemates, developed by Silverstein, Jeser and Jordan Young (“The Simpsons”), seem inspired by toon icons such as Captain America, Betty Boop and SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as more generic archetypes such as the fairy princess, a videogame warrior and a foul-mouthed Internet toon.

“We’re taking characters from genres you’re familiar with and putting them in inappropriate situations,” Silverstein said, noting there are some benefits of working with non-humans in the “reality” arena.

“If we hate our superhero, we can vote him off,” he quipped.

Lauren Corrao, Comedy Central’s senior VP of original programming and development, said she was sold on “Drawn Together” after screening a four-minute pilot presentation.

“I immediately fell in love with it. It’s got such a great hook,” she said. “I guarantee you, this is one of those little pieces of tape that will be flying around in no time. It’s like ‘The Real World’ gone mad.”

Unlike Spike TV’s “The Joe Schmo Show,” which sends up reality and its prototype personalities, “Drawn Together” won’t be spoofing the genre.

“All the conventions and touchstones you use in reality television are great storytelling devices,” Jeser said. “We don’t want to do a parody, we want to tell cool, compelling stories.”

“At its core, it’s a character-driven comedy,” Corrao said. “I think people feel liberated working in animation and a lot of really talented writers work in that genre.”

Still, Corrao added, “Some of the humor in ‘Drawn Together’ will come from the viewers’ familiarity with reality television and the show’s ability to poke holes in the well-known conventions found in these shows.”

UTA-packaged series is slated for an October 2004 bow. Zoe Friedman is the executive in charge of production for Comedy Central.

Silverstein and Jeser previously wrote for Fox series “Andy Richter Controls the Universe” and “Action.”