TV Land’s push into original scripted laffers has accelerated: The cabler has greenlit two new sitcoms and given a second season renewal to “Retired at 35,” bringing its slate of originals to four skeins.
On Monday, TV Land gave orders to a romantic comedy toplined by Fran Drescher, “Happily Divorced,” and an ensembler about a group of divorced guys, “The Exes,” from “Retired” scribe Mark Reisman. In addition to reupping “Retired,” which bowed earlier this year to so-so ratings, TV Land increased the order for its signature series, “Hot in Cleveland,” to 24 episodes in its current season, up from 22.
Keith Cox, TV Land’s exec veep of development and original programming, is now in the market for more half-hour scripts and intends to do at least a few more pilots this year.
The success of the buzzy “Hot in Cleveland” has fueled TV Land’s ambition to remake at least part of the classic TV cabler into a home for original multicamera laffers with established TV players. The shows are very deliberately aimed at forty- and fiftysomething fans of the kind of traditional sitcoms that have largely fallen out of favor at the broadcast nets in recent years (though multicam is poised to make a comeback this pilot season).
“In success, we may not have to do as many (pilots). It’s going to come down to the scripts,” Cox said. “So far we’ve had such great success in casting, and that’s been because we’ve had great scripts.”
TV Land lensed “Happily Divorced,” “The Exes” and a third pilot last month in a marathon three-week shoot.
“Happily Divorced” is penned and exec produced by Drescher and her ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, and it’s loosely based on their real experience of living and working together after getting divorced. John Michael Higgins co-stars as Drescher’s husband, who comes out of the closet as a gay man after 18 years of marriage. Tichina Arnold, Rita Moreno and Robert Walden co-star. Drescher and Jacobson were the duo behind her successful 1990s CBS laffer “The Nanny.”
“The Exes” revolves around three divorced men — played by Wayne Knight, Donald Faison and David Alan Basche — who live in an apartment building across the hall from their sexy divorce attorney/landlord, played by Kristen Johnston. “Retired” exec producers Mindy Schultheis and Michael Hanel also exec produce “Exes” with Reisman.
The episode extension for “Hot in Cleveland” is no surprise as the ensembler continues to deliver strong ratings. “Retired,” which revolves around a young man’s decision to decamp from Gotham to his parents’ condo in Florida, has had a harder time gaining traction in the post-“Cleveland” Wednesday 10:30 p.m. slot, but TV Land execs have faith in the show and its cast, led by Jessica Walter, George Segal and Johnathan McClain.
“Hot in Cleveland” wraps the first half of its third season on Wednesday. The show will return for its second half on June 15 in tandem with the bow of “Happily Divorced.”
“Exes” and the second season of “Retired” will bow in the winter.
For now, Cox said TV Land intends to stick with the Wednesday 10 p.m. slot as its showcase for originals. It’s a good timeslot for original comedy because the major broadcast and cable nets generally program dramas there. Cox said his goal is to serve up a range of comedic material — the Drescher romantic comedy with a twist, the buddy comedy of “Exes,” the fish-out-of-water story of “Retired,” etc. — to attract a broad comedy aud.
“We have a nice potpourri of different kinds of shows,” Cox said. “For us to be in business with this kind of talent — we’re just thrilled.”