Turner Broadcasting tries to make peace with Tyler Perry
Turner Broadcasting is trying to avoid a house of pain with producer Tyler Perry.
Perry, who has two shows on Turner's TBS cable channel ("House of Payne" and "Meet the Browns") was furious about a recent episode of the animated series "The Boondocks" that ran on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block. Cartoon Network also is owned by Turner Broadcasting.
The episode in question -- "Pause" -- which first ran June 20, lampooned Perry, the creator of several hit movies, some of whom star him as Madea, an eccentric grandmother whose antics often land her in hot water. The show, which is executive produced by Aaron McGruder, who also created the now-defunct comic strip of the same name, featured a thinly veiled version of Perry named Winston Jerome. In the episode, Jerome is shown to be a closeted cross-dresser who uses religion to hide his lifestyle.
Soon after the episode aired, Perry got in touch with executives at Turner including entertainment chief Steve Koonin and Phil Kent, the chief executive of Turner Broadcasting. Perry complained loudly about the episode and even threatened to rethink his relationship with the company, people familiar with the situation said. A spokesman for Perry declined to comment.Kent, who is a low-key executive but also a former talent agent, put his skills to work and acknowledged to Perry that the actor-producer should have been given a warning about the episode. The show, which has aired twice, is not scheduled to air again on Cartoon Network, although the company would not say if it has been banned from the channel.
Senior executives at Turner knew the episode had the potential to cause headaches when the script for it first came in more than a year ago, people close to the show said. McGruder had wanted the show to be the season premiere, but instead "Pause" was moved (some say buried) further into the season.
In the original script, McGruder did not make much of an effort to alter the identity of the subject of his scorn; he had to be told to change the name of the character so it wouldn't so closely resemble Perry's. He came back with a name that was a play on Perry's legal name, but that didn't fly either. And, hence, Winston Jerome was born.
The debacle over this episode of "The Boondocks" probably won't do much to ease already tense relations between Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and TBS. Both channels compete for the same young male demographic, which often has led to spats over turf. For example, repeats of "Family Guy" that were strong performers on Adult Swim ended up on TBS too, much to the chagrin of Adult Swim. Also, while much of Turner Broadcasting is excited about having landed Conan O'Brien as host of a late-night show, the folks at Adult Swim are worried that its ratings could be hurt by the show.
-- Joe Flint
Photos: Top, a scene from "The Boondocks" featuring a parody of Tyler Perry's work. Credit: Cartoon Network. Middle right: Tyler Perry. Credit: Frantzesco Kangaris/Getty Images. Bottom left: Turner Broadcasting Chief Executive Phil Kent. Credit: Time Warner