In television, success leads to longevity which leads to the rich nectar of syndication, but sometimes there is a shortcut, and FX, Debmar-Mercury, and George Lopez are taking advantage of it with Lopez' new show, Saint George.
What is this shortcut? It is a 10/90 deal and the terms boil down to a show receiving a guaranteed renewal for 90 episodes (and thus, a quick shot at admission into syndication heaven, because those 90 episodes are usually produced quickly) if it's initial 10 episodes hit certain viewership targets.
Though other shows like Tyler Perry's House of Payne went to air under the same circumstances, it's best known as the deal that helped make Anger Management - Charlie Sheen's return to TV following his "noteworthy" exit from Two and a Half Men - possible.
Sheen's show hit those targets and got its renewal, but whether Lopez will or won't remains to be seen. With that said, the Debmar-Mercury people have been after him for awhile, doubtlessly because of an existing "brand" that has been cultivated by his stand-up career, his shuttered TBS late night talk show Lopez Tonight, and his ability to steer his last sitcom, George Lopez, to syndication, where it still gallops nightly on Nick@Nite from 1-3AM.
Here's Debmar-Mercury partner Ira Bernstein (circa 2012 in the days following the Sheen deal) on how the company picks the right talent for the 10/90 business model:
“It’s a three-legged stool, and you need all three pieces otherwise it doesn’t work. You need someone who has a pre-sold branded element. It can’t be an unknown guy with a really good script. You need to be in business with people who have the financial wherewithal to afford this deal and play for the upside. And the third element is they have to be able to execute.”
As was the case with Anger Management - where Sheen has been guided by former Drew Carey Show and (ironically) George Lopez co-creator Bruce Helford - Lopez will have an experienced hand (or two) to help him execute and reach the promised land on Saint George, thanks to Matt Williams (Roseanne, Home Improvement) and his producing partner David McFadzean.
Despite the notoriety of the star or the experience of the creative team, though, the meat of the meal is what winds up onscreen, so in addition to Lopez and Saint George's classically trained showrunners, the show sounds like it will have a few classically honed tropes as well.
Here's the synopsis:
The multi-camera ensemble comedy revolves around the chaotic life of a recently divorced working class Mexican-American turned successful entrepreneur. In the sitcom, Lopez will 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.
Now, lets do the math: a multi-camera show from a couple of guys who worked on some of the most beloved multi-camera sitcoms of the last 25 years, a popular star who previously headlined a reasonably popular sitcom that found it's way to off-network syndication, kids, an over-bearing mother, a demanding ex-wife, and a few zany, night school students? It really does sound like the perfect sitcom, devised in a lab and shot out of a robot for the express purpose of reaching syndication - and there's no harm in that.
The point of the non-reality TV business is an attractive syndication package - that's why I'm of the opinion there will be a fifth season of Community, and why shows like Yes, Dear stayed around for as long as they did. But the thing is, those shows are a product of a more conventional way, where a show is created and has to fight to stay alive from season to season. Meanwhile, the cast and crew gets to wonder if they'll have a job in the coming year; fans get to wonder if their favorite show will be around.
At least with a 10/90 deal, all the cards are on the table, and if death does come for the show, it's painless because we haven't really had a chance to form an attachment. As for the networks, sure, they're taking a risk by assuming that a show's initial success will give way to long-term success, but they're also getting an established product (Sheen, Lopez, etc) and a whole lot of content in a short period of time for less money than they'd pay if 4 seasons of a show were spread out over 4 years.
From a series premiere to syndicated immortality and a 1AM Nick@Nite time-slot in just ten episodes? It's not a bad deal if you can get it.
Keep an eye on Screen Rant for any future updates on Saint George.