Comedy Central is ready to do battle on Sunday night.
For the first time since “The Man Show” moved to Sundays in 2000, the laffer net has slated a lineup of original programming that will kick off July 9 with the premiere of “Chappelle’s Show: The Lost Episodes.”
Back-to-back episodes of “Chappelle” will bow at 9 followed by new episodes of “Mind of Mencia” at 10 and the fourth season of “Reno 911!” at 10:30.
Move reps a huge vote of confidence in “Mencia,” which is turning in solid ratings in its Wednesday post-“South Park” timeslot. Comedy Central will continue to air a mix of movies and standup specials that had become the Sunday routine, only earlier in the 7 and 8 p.m. hours.
Opening up Sunday reps an attempt to establish a second destination night for the network, which has used its powerhouse Wednesdays, home to “South Park” since its premiere in 1999, as its primary launch pad for new series. Current primetime hits “Mencia,” “Reno” and “Drawn Together” all premiered leading out of “South Park.”
Comedy Central senior VP of programming David Bernath said summer seemed like a ripe time to test the Sunday waters with less competition from the broadcast networks, emphasizing that the plan is to continue the schedule into the fall.
With its strong demo numbers, “Mencia,” if successful, could move up to 9 and serve as a second strong platform for new originals once “Chappelle” finishes its run.
“Mencia,” a standup/sketch comedy starring Carlos Mencia, has grown into a full-blown hit since its debut last summer. Current season is averaging 2.1 million viewers and a solid 1.8 rating in men 18-49. Bernath said such numbers would improve an already strong Sunday (season-to-date average is 1.5 million total viewers, 0.98 in men 18-49).
“With other shows we’ve had, we always ask, ‘Is this show good enough to move away from Matt and Trey and be a leader on another night?’ ” Bernath said. “The answer is that ‘Mencia’ is our best new show.”
Exec went on to note that Mencia has become something of a one-man brand for the network. “His DVDs are selling well, his Internet clips do well, we are taking him on tour this fall — there’s a multiplatform Mencia thing happening in a big way here.”
In other news at Comedy Central, Carrot Top, Paul Reubens and Paul Rudd are set to guest star in the new season of “Reno 911!”; New Line Cinema’s “Snakes on a Plane,” meanwhile, will sponsor the first episode of “Chappelle’s Show: The Lost Episodes.”