Disney Channel has come up with a way to keep hit sitcom “Sonny with a Chance” alive without star Demi Lovato.
With Lovato off receiving treatment for personal problems, Disney and “Sonny’s” producers have decided to rework the series (at least temporarily) to focus on its show-within-a-show, the comedy/sketch/music-variety “So Random!”
That means writers on “Sonny,” which had been picked up for a third season, will center their writing efforts on “So Random!” sketches. “So Random!” will feature guest stars, comedy sketches, musical performances and digital shorts.
Move will allow the show to resume shooting in January, as planned, even if Lovato isn’t available.
“This allows her the time she needs to get well, without distraction or pressure,” a Disney Channel spokeswoman said. “Again, we extend our ongoing support to Demi and her family as she works to overcome personal issues.”
With no timetable for Lovato’s return, and with production looming on season three, the cabler and exec producers Brian Robbins, Sharla Sumpter Bridgett, Michael Feldman and Steve Marmel came up with the “So Random!” idea as a temporary solution.
Even prior to Lovato’s time off, “Sonny” had already produced two full episodes of “So Random!” as standalone specials. Show producers and Disney Channel execs were pleased with both the creative and ratings performance of the first episode (which aired Oct. 17), helping make the decision to transition the show an easy one.
The next “So Random!” special is set to run in late November.
The “So Random!” universe has also spawned several websites and an online version of the show’s fictional tween magazine about the cast — furthering the show-within-a-show’s universe.
“Sonny with a Chance” stars Lovato as Allison “Sonny” Munroe, who moves from the Midwest to Los Angeles to join the cast of hot teen sketch comedy series “So Random!” Show also stars Tiffany Thornton, Sterling Knight, Brandon Mychal Smith, Doug Brochu and Allisyn Ashley Arm.
Lovato, 18, announced last week that she would end her concert tour with the Jonas Brothers in order to enter a treatment facility to seek help for “emotional and physical issues.”