‘Fat’ deal for thesp

Showtime's 'Huff' gets quick re-up

Showtime has greenlit “Fat Actress,” an unscripted comedy co-created by and starring Kirstie Alley, and given an early second-season order to yet-to-premiere drama “Huff.”

Among the pay cabler’s other announcements during its portion of the television critics press tour Wednesday were orders for third seasons of reality skeins “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” and “Family Business.”

Alley’s “Fat Actress” is a hybrid reality comedy in the vein of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with Alley playing a fictional version of herself — a TV and movie actress whose growing curves consistently serve as fodder for the tabloids. Show was co-created and exec produced by Alley and Brenda Hampton (“Seventh Heaven”). Sandy Chanley (“Curb”) also exec produces.

“Kirstie is an incredibly gifted comedian and a beautiful woman, and we jumped at the chance to go behind the scenes of her life,” Showtime entertainment topper Robert Greenblatt said. “This is quintessential premium cable for us — not only will the show garner a ton of attention, it also has something to say.”

Production on the six-episode season begins in September in Los Angeles for a 2005 premiere.

Pickup for “Huff,” from Sony Pictures TV, marks one of the fastest series renewals in history. Skein doesn’t premiere until November, but Greenblatt said viewing the first five episodes and reading the succeeding five scripts were enough evidence of a potential hit.

“We’ve seen the rough cuts for five episodes of this show and we think it’s spectacular,” exec said. “The creative work being done is at the highest level, and we don’t see a scenario in 2006 that doesn’t include this series on our lineup. So we picked it up.”

Show stars Hank Azaria as a psychiatrist whose life is turned upside down when a patient commits suicide before his eyes.

Cast members were surprised by the news during the session for “Huff.”

“Thank you Bob!,” said Paget Brewster, who plays the Azaria character’s wife. Thesp’s most recent series, “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” struggled through two brief seasons. “The curse is over,” she declared.

In other Showtime news:

  • Channel has opted to bow the Spike Lee series pilot “SFC” as a two-hour movie some time next year.

  • Net is developing a comedy series based on the theatrical “Barbershop” with MGM. John Ridley (“Undercover Brother”) is aboard to develop the project. “Barbershop” producers George Tillman Jr. and Robert Teitel (Showtime’s “Soul Food”) will also exec produce the series under their State Street Pictures banner.

  • Showtime has signed on to co-produce the Broadway event “Laugh Whore,” a one-man show featuring Mario Cantone (“Sex and the City”). Show will air as a special in 2005.

Dave Chappelle, while on hand to promote his upcoming standup special on the cabler, said that though negotiations were still under way, he felt “optimistic” about signing with Comedy Central for a third season of his hit “Chappelle’s Show.” No deal is done as of yet.

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