July 15, 2005

Comedy Central to Chappelle — ‘Phone home’

By Paul J. Gough

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - There's still no word
from Comedy Central on when "Chappelle's Show" will return to
the network, more than two months after Dave Chappelle abruptly
stopped work on the series and essentially disappeared.

The third season of the top-rated sketch show had been
scheduled to begin May 31 under a $50 million deal that also
covered a fourth season. But that didn't happen. Instead,
Chappelle flew to South Africa, saying he needed a break.

"The ball's in Dave's court," Doug Herzog, president of
Comedy Central, told The Hollywood Reporter after the channel's
presentation in Beverly Hills as part of the Television Critics
Assn. July press tour.

Herzog said that he had spoken to Chappelle a few weeks ago
in a hotel lobby. According to Herzog, Chappelle said he needed
a bit more time; Herzog said he told him they looked forward to
working with him again.

"If you see him, tell him to phone home," Herzog joked.

Despite the blow that was losing the channel's top-rated
show, Herzog said Comedy Central is holding its own in the
ratings and is actually up a bit.

"We didn't go backward without him, which was a great
fear," Herzog said. "It's no question that it (the ratings)
would be much better with Dave Chappelle."

At the same time, Comedy Central brought out celebrities
from three shows -- two for late-night and one in primetime --
to increase ratings, Chappelle or not. D.L. Hughley addressed
questions about "Weekends at the D.L.," his weekend late-night
talk show premiering July 29; outspoken "Loveline" co-host Adam
Carolla discussed "Too Late With Adam Carolla," another talk
show debuting Aug. 8 after "The Daily Show"; and "The Showbiz
Show With David Spade," a weekly comedy series about Hollywood
and celebrities that will bow sometime in September.

Spade, the former "Saturday Night Live" co-star whose
"Hollywood Minute" skewered celebrities back in the mid-1990s,
had signed on as executive producer of "The Showbiz Show" but
recently agreed to host the show, too. It's being produced with
his longtime colleague, former SNL writer Hugh Fink.

It's still too early in the process for Spade and Fink to
have a fully designed show to bring to the critics; they
offered some ideas for where they're going and what the show
will be. Spade said it wouldn't be as mean-spirited as the
perceptions of "Hollywood Minute," at least not on purpose.

"Some people probably weren't too crazy about it," Spade
said of the "SNL" segment. "It's not my intent."

And the half-hour show won't look like "Access Hollywood"
or "Entertainment Tonight."

"There won't be any direct parodies" of those types of
shows, Spade said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter