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'Cedric' gone but not quite

Fox cancels 'Cedric the Entertainer Presents' but will show unaired episodes next season.

June 20, 2003|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

In an odd prime-time programming twist, Fox has already pulled the plug on "Cedric the Entertainer Presents," although it's still returning to the fall lineup for its second season.

Production has been shut down on the sketch comedy-variety series starring the popular comedian from "The Original Kings of Comedy." Some staffers were told by e-mail from producers days ago that they should look for other work.

Instead of brand-new episodes, viewers will see installments produced last season that never aired. The comedy, which was paired with "The Bernie Mac Show," stayed in production after being pulled from the schedule last February. It was initially supposed to be off the air for just a few weeks to make way for the launch of the sitcom "Wanda at Large," but did not return to the schedule until May.

"It's over, it's done," said a show insider about the comedy's future on Fox. "It's very sad."

Fox has enough unaired episodes of "Cedric the Entertainer Presents" to last through December. The show, along with other Fox series, will be interrupted as usual by the network's broadcast of the baseball playoffs.

Network executives declined to discuss their decision, and Cedric the Entertainer declined comment.

Given the show's lackluster ratings, industry insiders were surprised when Fox announced in May that there would be a new season of "Cedric."

"Cedric the Entertainer Presents" featured the comedian as host and performer with an ensemble who performed in skits each show. His regular characters included a surly cafeteria woman who would insult students and teachers. Cedric was also an executive producer of the series.

One network insider said Fox executives renewed the series to stay in business with the comedian while developing a new situation comedy around him. That project would have replaced the sketch show.

"They absolutely love him at Fox," the network source said. "But they felt that this show and the sketch format was not serving him well. They felt he was a major TV comedy star, and he needed another vehicle."

Representatives for Cedric later informed the network that they were not prepared to move forward with the agreement. "They evidently feel that Cedric has a major film career going, and they want to focus on that," said the network insider.

The actor-comedian already has a full slate of films on his schedule.

He's just finished "Intolerable Cruelty," co-starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. In September he is planning to start filming "Barbershop 2," the sequel to last year's hit about an urban barbershop. He will reprise his character of Eddie, who drew flak from some black leaders for making jokes about civil rights pioneers.

Other projects include starring in a film version of the TV classic "The Honeymooners" and "Johnson Family Vacation," which he is producing for Fox Searchlight Films, and co-starring with "Original Kings of Comedy" cohort Steve Harvey.

It's not the first time that Fox has scheduled series that have halted production. The network in 2001 placed the animated "Family Guy" and the superhero spoof "The Tick" on its lineup, in part because they offered a more advertiser-friendly alternative to so-called reality shows.

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