Showtime is bulking up its comedy slate for 2009, ordering a series from Blighty comedian Marc Wootton and greenlighting a second season of Tracey Ullman’s “State of the Union.”
Moves come as Showtime moves closer to giving series orders to its Edie Falco and Toni Collette pilots, both of which are comedies. Nothing’s been decided yet, but both projects are highly likely to move forward sometime this summer, joining a Showtime laffer slate which already includes “Weeds” and “Californication.”
“We’re on a bit of a comedy kick right now,” Showtime entertainment prexy Robert Greenblatt told Daily Variety.
Exec is particularly high on Wootton, who’s well known in the U.K. (and to BBC America auds) for characters such as theatrical psychic Shirley Ghostman.
“I believe he is the new Sasha Baron Cohen,” Greenblatt said, noting Wootton’s ability to mine comedy by fooling everyday folks into thinking his characters are real.
In an unusual move, rather than developing a pilot, Showtime is giving Wootton a blind, six-episode series order and is allowing him to create a character-driven, alternative comedy in which his characters interact with unassuming real people.
It also helps that Showtime is flush with cash, thanks to the $300 million or so it will begin saving once its movie output deals expire in 2010. Execs at the cabler have made it clear that the extra coin will be funneled into more original series.
In addition to toplining the BBC skein “High Spirits With Shirley Ghostman,” Wootton also wrote and starred in the comedy quizzer “My New Best Friend” and the BBC sketch comedy “Marc Wootton Exposed.”
Wootton’s Showtime project will be exec produced and directed by Misha Manson-Smith (“Death in Gaza”). Wootton and Michael Rizzo will exec produce.
As for Ullman’s “State of the Union,” Showtime has ordered a second season of seven episodes. Skein will return next year.
“State of the Union” premiered March 30 and wrapped its five-episode frosh season on Sunday.