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TBS ready to be lifeboat for 'My Name Is Earl'

May 20, 2009 | 11:37 am

If "My Name Is Earl" creator Greg Garcia is still looking for a lifeboat after telling the Los Angeles Times that having his sitcom dumped by NBC is like "being thrown off the Titanic," he should reach out to cable network TBS.

"We like the show very much; we'd definitely look," Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks told Company Town at the Turner upfront in New York. 

There has been lots of speculation that "My Name Is Earl" could end up on Fox. After all, it's produced by that network's sister studio, 20th Century Fox Television, and Fox Broadcasting entertainment chief Kevin Reilly helped develop the show when he was at NBC.Garcia

But senior Fox executives have downplayed that speculation. "My Name Is Earl" has seen its ratings decline over the last few years, and there may not be much upside for Fox to pick it up. Fox also has indicated that it is trying to go after more female viewers ("My Name Is Earl," about a guy who makes amends to everyone he has wronged, has a more male skew). Of course, all that may be just a negotiating ploy.

TBS already gets solid performances from reruns of "My Name Is Earl," and, even if its ratings slid further, the bar for success is slightly lower on cable. Koonin said that the network likes to develop its own shows but that landing an established program could help TBS launch its heavy slate of original programs.

The hurdle would likely be price. Cable networks are pretty frugal, even though they have a dual revenue stream of advertising and subscription fees. It's not that Turner couldn't afford "Earl." It could. It is whether they'd be willing to pay a license fee that is at least within spitting distance of what NBC shelled out.

Koonin has not approached 20th Century Fox about buying the show, but he sounds ready to deal. Says Koonin: "Tell them to give me a call. We're in the book."

— Joe Flint

Photo: Jason Lee and Greg Garcia grab an Emmy. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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