With the likes of Tyler Perry, Charlie Sheen, and even George Lopez, cable networks have shown that they embrace what is an interesting new model: Test-airing ten episodes of a sitcom, and then renewing it for 90 more immediately depending on if it meets a certain ratings threshold. For the producers and actors involved here, the benefits are pretty obvious: It marks a huge payday, especially if you can sell the show off into syndication. Charlie Sheen is a great example of this, given how much bank he is making for “Anger Management” (think tens of millions of dollars), it only makes sense that some more big names would want in on the action.
With that in mind, we now have the claims that legendary TV star Roseanne Barr is hoping to cash in on a model that also has Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence interested. It was announced today that she, along with “Nurse Jackie” co-creator Linda Wallem, are developing a family comedy for NBC through her Universal TV deal that would follow this traditional model. This is the first time that a major broadcast network has experimented with this, and thus it will be an interesting situation to watch in the weeks and months ahead.
Will this work? While it’s surprising to see any network even consider the sort of commitment that a 90-episode order brings, NBC is probably aware of the money involved with Roseanne (a proven syndication draw). Plus, there’s no guarantee that they have to air her show during the fall or spring season, and could stick her in the summer.
What do you think: Could this idea actually work for NBC, or do you think that this whole “90-episode guarantee” (if renewed) is something that is turning TV development into too much of a cash factory? If you want to see an example of how things can go horribly wrong, just look at the cast shakeup happening on “Anger Management” right now.