How I Met Your . . . Roommates?

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, September 17, 2009

"How I Met Your Mother" executive producer Greg Malins will try to resuscitate "Three's Company" for ABC -- only this time it's set in Washington and the three young people who are shacking up together . . . are all newly elected members of Congress!

But wait -- it gets better. Malins has partnered with Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington and founding editor Roy Sekoff to develop the sitcom. Huffington and Sekoff will be executive producers on the show if it goes forward and are hard at work cooking up Web tie-ins to the gestating series, including campaign sites for the fictitious characters.

This project is far from a certainty. So far, ABC has thrown some money at Malins for his pilot script -- one of the boatloads of scripts ABC has ordered for next season. Network suits have not decided whether to move forward with Malins's project.

Malins is giving this version of "Three's Company" a thorough dusting off. This time, instead of two chicks (making a star of Suzanne Somers, but not of Joyce DeWitt) and a guy (making a star of John Ritter), it will be two guys and one chick who wind up sharing an apartment in Washington.

This according to the Hollywood trade papers, which were given the story. How do we know? The tip-off is when you see a paragraph in Variety that goes like this:

It's a busy development season for Malins, who's also working on a comedy-minded criminal drama for Fox with mystery novelist Harlan Coben.

Malins told Variety he'd always been a political junkie "following all that stuff."

We'll take a moment here, so you can savor that sentence.

Back to work: But Malins says he only recently learned that members of Congress "often live together," adding, "There's your story right there."

The trades said lawmakers who room together include Democrats Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, George Miller and Bill Delahunt, who share a house. And yet, not a chick in the bunch. Too bad!

Apparently "following stuff" does not extend to, oh say, reading the New York Times, which wrote about these same four Dems who shacked up together in 1994, 1995, 2005 and 2007. Too bad Malins didn't at least catch that 2005 article in which the reporter suggested "this has the makings of a television sitcom."

If ABC greenlights the series it would be produced by Fox Television, where Malins has an "overall" deal.

FYI, an "overall" deal means the studio is paying for your office, your overhead, plus some kind of salary. Usually what happens is that, in return for all this largesse, the studio becomes the production house and distributor of anything creative you cough up.

And because the show would be a broadcast sitcom, Malins must adhere to the genre's One of This/One of That Rule.

So, he says, one of the politicians will be left-leaning, one will be right-leaning, one will be an independent -- and hilarity will ensue.

Also, one will have a wife back home, one will be single, and one will be recently divorced -- which is laugh riot right there.

The original "Three's Company," which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1984, also followed the One of This/One of That Rule. The guy was a Navy veteran and culinary student from San Diego. One of the chicks was down to earth -- code in Hollywood for "brunette" and "Midwestern" -- and worked for a florist. The other chick was a ditsy -- Hollywood code for "blonde" and "Valley girl" -- secretary.

That show itself was a remake of a Britcom called "Man About the House."

"The stories are endless," Malins said of a sitcom about the inhabitants of Washington, adding, "They're all crazy."

Sez you!

Reading Leno's Numbers

About 11 million people watched the second night of "The Jay Leno Show" on Tuesday, according to final stats, compared with the 18 million who caught Leno's first night hosting the new prime-time series, which airs weeknights at 10.

The 40 percent decline in audience ignited a wildfire of blogging and tweeting that seemed to fall into two categories: There was the "OMG, how fast, how far will Jay Leno's show plunge?" group, and then there were the bloggers and twits who went with, "OMG Leno fell so far and fast and we totally predicted that!"

Leno's first-to-second-night drop was steeper than that suffered by Conan O'Brien on his second night hosting NBC's "The Tonight Show" in June. Conan's crowd shrank by 33 percent -- 9 million viewers to 6 million.

On the bright side, Leno's second show included a bit in which he interviewed a family whose cherubic baby girl, Delaney, begins to cry hysterically every time she sees Conan on the TV set. Leno and a cameraman went to their house and they demonstrated.

Getting back to the ratings and putting them into perspective -- we love perspective -- Leno's prime-time plunge on Tuesday is kids' stuff compared with the 62 percent ratings dive he took back in 1992 on his second night hosting "The Tonight Show." And yet, in the long run, that turned out okay for him, what with him being ranked No. 1 in late night for most of his 17 years.

So, what was Leno up against on his second night as host of a prime-time nightly talk/comedy show?

CBS aired the season finale of "Big Brother," which dramatically upgraded that network's ratings performance among young adult viewers vs. the drama reruns it's been running there.

ABC, meanwhile, ran a special on Patrick Swayze -- R.I.P. -- which included Babs Walters's last interview with him.

"Barbara Walters Special -- Patrick Swayze: Last Dance" (notice who gets top billing) attracted significantly more interest among viewers than had other ABC fare in the hour the past few weeks.

Bottom line: Leno handily won his second night among viewers of all ages; he also finished first among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers networks covet in prime time.

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