In what’s perhaps the richest TV comedy development deal of the year, “Scrubs” czar Bill Lawrence has inked a new four-year deal with NBC Studios.
Eight-figure pact calls for Lawrence, who created and exec produces the NBC Studios/Touchstone medical laffer, to create, develop and exec produce programming under what will eventually be the NBC Universal banner. Lawrence is currently in the final year of a previous pact at NBC Studios.
NBC development prexy Kevin Reilly said that while Lawrence’s last deal “was predicated on supporting ‘Scrubs,’ now it’s also about building comedy development for us.”
“While he’s a young guy with a big career ahead of him, Bill’s already created two shows that will go into syndication,” Reilly told Daily Variety. “He has a real appetite to create a lot more shows and supervise other projects under this banner within our studio.”
Reilly said Lawrence’s status as “a proven entity” enabled NBC to step up with such a large offer in a marketplace where overall deals have become less lucrative.
“I don’t anticipate we’ll make any deal bigger than this on the development side this year,” he said. “It’s a very significant deal in a marketplace that’s been rather dry. But this is not indicative of where we’ll be setting the bar for our deals.”
Lawrence, whose experience creating “Scrubs” and “Spin City” makes him one of the hottest young scribes in town, becomes one of the first marquee names under the new NBC Universal label.
Lawrence is expected to stay on “Scrubs” as showrunner through next season, though Reilly said he’s already talking to Lawrence about supervising some development for next season.
With NBC staples like “Friends” and “Frasier” departing after this year, Lawrence said it would be silly not to immediately head into development.
“For a comedy writer, this is a huge opportunity,” he said. “It seems to me with such an open landscape on NBC, there’s a real good shot at getting a bunch of shows on the air. I’m going to try to get something going right away.”
Having dabbled with single-camera comedy on “Scrubs,” Lawrence said he’d like to return to the multicam world for his next comedy.
Lawrence said he’d also like to build a show around a major comedic talent. He’s no stranger to that world, having created the Michael J. Fox hit “Spin City.”
“With ‘Spin City,’ we got someone like Mike Fox in the lead, who tore into the audience and really made stuff work,” Lawrence said. “I’d like to find the next star vehicle.”
As part of his deal, Lawrence will also look to supervise other writers and take them under his wing, as Gary David Goldberg did him at “Spin.”
Lawrence already has some experience in that area, having exec produced MTV’s “Clone High, USA” (which was written by Chris Miller and Phil Lord).
Besides the development element, Lawrence said it would have been tough making a deal elsewhere, as it might have meant having to give up oversight of “Scrubs.” Lawrence is also close friends with Reilly, having been introduced by Touchstone TV prexy Steve McPherson.
“This is a real opportunity to spend four years with a guy who I already like,” he said. “I don’t have to meet him for the first time and learn his rhythms and stuff.”
Deal was brokered by Howard West, Jared Levine and BWCS’ Ted Chervin.