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‘Monkey’ shines in a CBS pickup

'Love' is in the air with Eye midseason choice

A correction was made to this article on Aug. 10, 2005.

CBS has gone ape for “Love Monkey,” giving a midseason series order to the hourlong dramedy from exec producers Michael Rauch and Mark Johnson (“The Notebook”).

Skein, from Sony Pictures Television and Paramount Network TV, is based on Kyle Smith’s 2004 novel of the same name. Rauch (“Beautiful People”) wrote the pilot and will exec produce with Johnson.

“Love Monkey” revolves around a single thirtysomething record exec and his friends, all of whom have more advanced love lives than he. Tom Cavanagh (“Ed”) heads up the cast, which also includes Jason Priestley, Judy Greer and Larenz Tate.

Industry observers were watching closely to see if the Eye would move forward with the skein, which reps a major departure from the net’s winning formula of Bruckheimeresque crime dramas.

With “Monkey” and fall skeins “Threshold” and “Ghost Whisperer,” CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler seems determined not to repeat the mistakes made by NBC, whose insistence on producing “Friends” clones is a major reason the Peacock finds itself in fourth place.

Rauch called the Eye’s decision to greenlight his skein “ballsy” and said he believed the Big Six are moving toward more diversity in their slates.

“I feel like the pendulum has begun to swing back to relationship shows,” he said. “That’s really what’s going to be at the heart of this show: these characters, their loves, their heartbreaks.”

With “Monkey” greenlit, Sony now has snagged midseason orders for three broadcast series.

ABC is banking on Sony/Pariah-produced “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” for January, while NBC picked up “Book of Daniel” (a co-prod with NUTS) last month.

SPT programming/production prexy Russ Krasnoff said he’s happy with how the studio’s development for the 2005-06 season turned out. Studio shot a total of seven pilots last spring.

“To have three new shows at three (different) broadcast networks is above our expectations,” he said, calling “Love Monkey” a “major piece that we’ve been working very hard toward” getting picked up.

Par TV prexy David Stapf called “Monkey” the type of show “that’s not on TV now. It was a passion project for everyone at the studio.”

“Love Monkey” is the fourth Johnson-produced skein for CBS in the last decade. He also was behind Eye dramas “The Guardian,” “Falcone” and “L.A. Doctors.”

Elsewhere on the midseason front, Eye backup laffer “Everything I Know About Men,” which stars Jenna Elfman, is undergoing a behind-the-scenes shuffle.

Series creator/exec producer Fred Barron (“Dave’s World”) has ankled, just a few weeks after production on the series began. Rob Hanning, already on staff as exec producer, will take over showrunning duties.

Barron created the Blighty skein “According to Bex,” which serves as the basis for the Elfman skein. Having helped get “Men” off the ground— and successfully transplant a format from the U.K. to the U.S. — he’s now expected to return to London to take advantage of the recent loosening of restrictions on indie producers.

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