Tyler Perry, TBS team on ‘Browns’

Duo deal for comedy based on feature film

Tyler Perry, whose “House of Payne” sitcom could end up grossing more than $200 million in its first cycle through 2012, has signed a deal with TBS for a comedy based loosely on his theatrical movie “Meet the Browns.”

TBS has commissioned 10 half-hours of “Meet the Browns,” which stars David Mann as Leroy Brown, with Perry as exec producer and director.

Distributor Debmar-Mercury is drawing to some extent on the original syndication pattern of “House of Payne,” which started in 2006 as a 10-episode experiment on a group of selected TV stations around the country. “Payne” scored so well in the Nielsens that the stations gave Perry and Debmar-Mercury the go-ahead for another 90 half-hours. To help fund the production, Debmar-Mercury signed TBS, which got a 15-month exclusive run before the show went into syndication.

Running twice a week on TBS in primetime since early last summer, “Payne” has become the highest-rated original sitcom ever on an ad-supported cable net. TBS has greenlit 26 more episodes of “Payne,” whose first 100 half-hours begin their 10-runs-a-week cycle in syndication next month.

Perry will tape “Meet the Browns” in the studio he owns in Atlanta where “Payne” is taped. The studio has doubled in size to 150,000 square feet, to accommodate the new tenant.

If the 10 episodes of “Brown” find a sizable audience when they kick off in January, Perry is prepared to do 90 more for TBS to start running next summer in a 15-month exclusive window. TV stations would buy the 100 “Browns” half-hours for a syndie premiere in September 2010.

Although Perry is still ironing out the details, “Browns” will be set in a boarding house and feature a number of colorful African-American characters.

Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein are co-presidents of Debmar-Mercury, which is owned by Lionsgate.