The former “King of Queens” is looking to regain his crown, or at least some title of TV sitcom nobility.
Kevin James has signed a new TV development deal with Lionsgate.
As first reported overnight by Deadline, that’s squarely so James can return to TV the way his fellow sitcom stars from the 1990s and 2000s have been doing it — via 10/90 syndication deals through Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury. James will executive produce his own starring vehicle, which Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury then will sell to a network, broadcast or cable.
If recent history is any guide, most likely cable.
It’s a relatively new yet well-tested approach over the past decade. Tyler Perry used it first to launch several series from his studio factory sitcom machine, airing on TBS and now on OWN. But the model has been used to even more spectacular effect more recently by Charlie Sheen in his Anger Management deal with FX. Sheen bounced back in a big way after relapsing his way out of network television and CBS’s Two and A Half Men, as the number of eyeballs gawking at his comeback were plenty enough over the first 10 episodes of Anger Management to trigger an automatic renewal for 90 more.
So why take that blueprint and start duplicating it? That’s what other former network sitcom stars — mostly stand-up comedians who benefitted during the previous boom for stand-ups to earn development deals — have done just in the past year or so. See:
- George Lopez (George Lopez, ABC, 120 episodes, 2002-2007) in the upcoming Saint George for FX
- Martin Lawrence (Martin, FOX, 132 episodes, 1992-1997) with Kelsey Grammer (Frasier, NBC, 264 episodes, 1993-2004) in the upcoming Lawrence/Grammer project, also for FX
FX also just so happens to be looking for more original programming, having split into multiple cable properties with FX, FXX and FXM.
James, of course, starred in 207 episodes of The King of Queens from 1998-2007 on CBS, and currently still in syndication. Though his recent movies haven’t exactly burned up the box-office — Here Comes The Boom didn’t bloom, and The Zookeeper was no Paul Blart: Mall Cop. But James did co-star in this summer’s big-screen sequel, Grown Ups 2, which has earned $131 million domestically and still remains in some cinemas.
Kevin James is shown above in his New York Mets hat during a celebrity softball game at this summer’s MLB All-Star Game festivities at Citi Field.