Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht

Sony TV heads do things differently

Van Amburg and Erlicht are hoping to have the last laugh this fall.

Some observers have questioned the wisdom of developing a primetime musical, but Sony’s TV production toppers are betting they’ll have success with “Viva Laughlin” (a co-production with CBS Par and BBC Worldwide). It’s an ambitious roll of the dice that speaks to Sony’s desire to do things differently.

Last season, Van Amburg and Erlicht launched CBS’ “Rules of Engagement” and Fox’s ” ‘Til Death,” two of only three frosh laffers to earn sophomore renewals. Critics weren’t kind to either show, but viewers seemed willing to check them out — and that has Sony cautiously optimistic.

“This is a big year for us in that we’ve proven we’re invested in the comedy business in a big way, and now we want to see these shows go the distance,” says Van Amburg, who’s headed programming and production at Sony for the past five years. “We’re very focused on that.”

In addition to the network shows, studio also produces the key TBS laffers “My Boys” and “10 Items or Less,” which are doing well for the cabler.

Getting at least one of the four laffers to stick would be a major accomplishment. The dearth of primetime comedy successes means the syndie market will be very kind to any studio that can provide a mainstream sitcom hit to local stations.

As it is, Van Amburg and Erlicht — working under boss Steve Mosko — have impressed with their ability to get pilots produced and shows greenlit, despite Sony’s status as one of the few remaining TV studios without a network sibling. Sony is already poised to have a very good 2008: It’s landed no fewer than nine pilot orders for next year.

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