Starz makes room for scripted shows

Net greenlights pair of celeb-centric comedies

Starz Entertainment is making its biggest foray yet into scripted original programming with two half-hour comedies slated to kick off in January: “Hollywood Residential,” about an accident-prone celebrity-home-makeover show, and “Head Case,” about a Beverly Hills psychotherapist who ministers to mixed-up celebrities.

Starz VP of programming Mike Ruggiero said, “Original series are a way for Starz to extend its brand beyond the theatrical movies that dominate our schedule. With these two sitcoms, we’re taking a measured approach, and not trying to do everything at once.”

Starz has commissioned eight episodes of each series.

It is developing other pilots and plans to commission a one-hour series next year, and maybe another new hour in 2009, Ruggiero said.

The two comedies are Hollywood-centered and focused on celebrities, he said, because Starz’s subscribers are accustomed to seeing movies on the network.

Paul Young, co-head of Principato-Young Entertainment, which produces “Hollywood Residential,” said, “My company is an expert at producing low-budgeted comedies,” having done “Reno 911” for Comedy Central and “Campus Ladies” for Oxygen.

On “Residential,” Young said, “The celebrity guests will work for scale. And because we do the series on single-camera tape, not film, the setups are easier to light, so we can shoot faster, keeping the production schedule short.”

There’ll be no financial deficit on the series, he continued, because Starz’s license fee will cover the production cost, including any overages. Starz will own ancillary rights, including DVD and rerun syndication.

“Head Case” is technically being renewed after a rookie year that consisted of 12-minute episodes in which Alexandra Wentworth plays a character who tries to help celebs such as Jason Priestley, Andy Dick and Alanis Morissette with their problems. New season’s episodes will expand to a half-hour.

Ruggiero said both comedies will be “semi-improvised to give them a different feel from a standard broadcast-network sitcom.”

Executive producers of “Residential” are Young, his wife Cheryl Hines (who plays Larry David’s wife in HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Peter Principato, Andy Lerner, Andy Bobrow and series star Adam Paul.

Uncle Film & TV is the producer of “Head Case.” Wentworth is co-exec producer with Uncle’s three partners: Robert Bauer, Eric Bonniot and Jason Farrand.

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