George Lopez is heading to FX.
The News Corp-owned network has landed his ensemble comedy, titled Saint George, which will revolve around the chaotic life of a recently divorced working class Mexican-American turned successful entrepreneur. Lopez is set to portray a man who struggles to balance his demanding ex-wife, his 11-year-old son, his overbearing mother who just moved in and his uncle as well as his new role as a philanthropist "giving back" by teaching history once a week at a night school.
The multi-camera series will follow the Anger Management model of a straight-to-series 10-episode order. If the latter hits a certain ratings threshold, 90 more episodes automatically will be ordered, allowing it to sell into syndication on an expedited timeline.
Roseanne creator Matt Williams signed on to run the half-hour project in mid-February. At that time, Lopez, who starred in his eponymous ABC sitcom for six seasons, had been attached to the Lionsgate effort for roughly a year, as the executives at Lionsgate and studio-owned distributor Debmar-Mercury searched for a showrunner. Once hired, Lopez and Williams, along with his Wind Dancer Films partner David McFadzean, collectively mapped out the series and then began shopping it to networks.
“The 10/90 model requires a unique individual who has the ability to pull off this kind of daunting schedule. George is that guy and we couldn’t be happier that he chose FX as the home for his new project. "We’ve had a great experience working with Kevin Beggs and his team at Lionsgate as well as with Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein at Debmar-Mercury, and are thrilled to expand that relationship," noted FX Networks executive vp Chuck Saftler.
Added Marcus and Bernstein in a statement: “Our business model is all about finding unique talent and broad concepts that have the best chance of succeeding both on networks and later in off-net syndication. George Lopez's broad appeal and strong following from the rapidly growing Hispanic audience, combined with the unmatched experience and track record of Matt and David, makes us extremely confident they can deliver our next big hit."
Saint George was co-created by Lopez, Williams and McFadzean, with the trio set to co-write the first episode. The men, along with 3 Arts' Michael Rotenberg (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Dete Meserve and Judd Payne will serve as executive producers on the project, which is set to begin production in August. Lionsgate TV is set to produce in association with Wind Dancer Films, Travieso Productions and 3 Arts Entertainment.
“In the tradition of George’s frank and fearless standup comedy, Saint George will reflect his no-holds-barred comedic take on the tensions surrounding race, class, sex and family life in Los Angeles through the eyes of a man straddling two separate cultures," said Beggs, Lionsgate TV Group president.
While Anger Management has failed to lure sky-high ratings in recent months or the kind of glowing reviews for which FX has grown accustomed, the acquisition is still widely perceived as a savvy investment inside the halls of News Corp. After all, the network paid only $600,000 an episode to license the series -- significantly less than it traditionally would shell out for original or off-net fare -- and was able to sell it to Madison Avenue at the highest CPM rates the network has ever seen for a first-year series.
What's more, FX quickly will accumulate enough episodes to start stacking them on the schedule the way it does its syndicated programs. "When you look at all of the off-net product that's gone for well over $1 million -- if not closer to $2 million [in the case of Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory repeats] -- per episode, I feel very, very good about the business proposition we made here," Saftler said in an interview with THR earlier this year. In the case of Lopez, his ABC series performed particularly well in off-net syndication.
The Lopez acquisition comes as FX is looking to bulk up its offerings in anticipation of FXX, a soon-to-be rebranded network that will begin as a destination for comedy. The younger-skewing net, which launches in 74 million homes in September, will join flagship FX and movie-centric FXM; collectively, the trio of channels will ramp up FX's development and pilot-production slate, more than doubling its current entries to feature 25 scripted original series across the nets during the next three years.
To be sure, Management’s success – broader than that of Tyler Perry (House of Payne) or Ice Cube (Are We There Yet?) -- has given way to other opportunities. Particularly appealing is the ability not only to remove the wait time and guesswork, but also to cash in in success. Sheen, who is a partner in Management, is poised to make as much as $200 million off of his FX comedy. Lionsgate and Debmar recently locked down Bob Boyett and Robert Horn to executive produce the company’s next 10/90 effort, an oddball comedy staring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence. Though that project has yet to be shopped, multiple broadcast networks are said to have expressed interest. To date, the 10/90 entries have landed exclusively on basic cable.
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose
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