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Archive for Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Turner Broadcasting in hot water with Tyler Perry

July 6, 2010

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Turner Broadcasting is trying to avoid a house of pain with Tyler Perry.

The actor-producer-director, 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 nighttime programming block known as Adult Swim. Cartoon Network is also owned by Turner Broadcasting.

The episode in question — “Pause,” which ran June 20 — lampooned Perry, the creator of several hit movies, some of which 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 attempted to reach out to executives at Turner, including entertainment chief Steve Koonin and Phil Kent, chief executive of Turner Broadcasting. Perry complained about the episode and even threatened to rethink his relationship with the company, people familiar with the situation said. A spokesperson for Perry declined to comment.

Kent, who is a low-key executive but also a former talent agent, put his skills to work in calming Perry down. Kent acknowledged to Perry that the actor-producer should have been warned about the episode, people with knowledge of the conversation said.

It is unlikely that the episode will be appearing again on Adult Swim soon. It ran once after its initial airing and is not scheduled for another airing. A Turner spokeswoman would not say, however, 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 “Pause” to be the season-premiere episode, but instead “Pause” was moved well into the season in the hopes of minimizing attention for the show.

In the original script, McGruder did not make much 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, a person close to the production team said. McGruder came back with a name that was actually 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 leads to spats over turf. For example, repeats of “Family Guy” that were strong performers on Adult Swim now also appear on TBS, 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 their channel’s ratings could be hurt by the show.

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