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New Kelsey Grammer-Martin Lawrence series 'Partners' not getting much promotion

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There's a new TV series premiering in early August starring two of the biggest names in comedy. For some reason, it's not getting much promotion.

It's called "Partners" and it stars Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence. The premise is easy to grasp: Lawrence and Grammer play mismatched Chicago lawyers who meet on the worst day of their lives and are forced to work together. They are the Odd Couple of the courts, Felix and Oscar at Law.

The series, which launches next Thursday, Aug. 7 on Global in Canada and Aug. 4 on FX in the U.S., has received almost zero support or promotion from the networks. Even though the timing was perfect, it was not presented to reporters at the just-ended Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. No screeners were sent for review, generally a bad sign. FX president John Landgraf — the modern-day master of the show launch — barely mentioned it at his recent press tour executive session.

"It could be a good show, we'll see what happens," says Grammer, cheerfully and refreshingly honest as he worked the Fox network press tour party. The TV veteran joined Lawrence — off network since the 1997 demise of his Fox sitcom "Martin" — in glad-handing reporters and trying to spark some buzz about their series.

"People were surprised when we announced we were going to put a show together but I think in the next breath everybody thought, yeah, it's a no brainer," says Grammer, 59. "The two of us together is a fun idea. It is the odd couple, sort of refigured. It's been great fun."

It could also be a quicker-than-usual payday for the two stars. "Partners" is similar to Charlie Sheen's "Anger Management" in that both comedies were "10/100" orders.

Instead of just making a decision based on a single pilot episode, FX will test 10, airing two back-to-back for five consecutive weeks. If these first 10 episodes hit an agreed-upon ratings mark this summer, an order for another 90 automatically kicks in. From there, two episodes a week are produced instead of the usual one, allowing the producers to bring 100 episodes to Netflix, DVD or the syndication marketplace in two years instead of the usual four or five.

It's all designed for the production companies — here Lionsgate in partnership with Grammer and Lawrence — to get to the big money faster.

Grammer, who spent 20 years as Dr. Frasier Crane on both "Cheers" and "Frasier," is happy to speed things up. "I thought we were always wasting time before anyway," he says of the conventional, once-a-week sitcom shooting schedule. "We can do two shows a week, that's fine by me."

Why this pairing with Lawrence, Grammer was asked. "Martin's funny. And together we're funny." Grammer says he probably would not have gone back to TV comedy if not for this opportunity to work with a true stand-up comedian. "I've never had that opportunity before and if I get a chance to play with somebody who's great, I'll take it."

He might have done another drama. Grammer enjoyed good reviews playing a politician trying to mask dementia on "Boss," but despite his Golden Globe win, the U.S. cable network Starz cancelled it after two seasons.

"I thought 'Boss' was arguably the best (thing) I've done on television," he says, sprinkling in an obscenity, "and, why mess with it, you know?"

Grammer has no qualms saying he was very at home playing the bloodless mayor. "I may have had success for 20 years as a guy like Frasier, but that's not really who I am at all. I felt much more comfortable as boss."

It's been 10 years since "Frasier," a series which made Grammer millions. Since then, he's struck out with two short-lived comedies, a sketch series and "Boss."

He's on his fourth marriage; reason enough to get back to work. He and wife Kayte Walsh just had their second child. Grammer laughs when asked about the rigours of getting back on the promotional stump. "My life at home is much more challenging," he says, looking around the crowded party venue. "I've been sleep deprived for about three years now, so I couldn't be happier. This is really good."

Grammer talked about one of his other gigs, being the voice of Sideshow Bob on "The Simpsons." He has another recording session lined up for September.

There's talk another beloved "Simpsons" character could be killed off next season. "Another death," says Grammer. "Funny, it's almost time to kill the whole show, isn't it?"

Spoken like Sideshow Bob.

For now Grammer is content to get "Partners" off the ground. "It's broad where it earns it," he says of the sitcom, an old fashioned, multi-cam comedy shot before a studio audience.

Grammer wraps up the interview with his take on the two characters, but his candour makes one think he also could be talking about himself and Lawrence:

"They hit the ground running, being completely honest with each other about who they are. That rarely happens. I think that's what makes this a unique pairing. They need each other in a strange way. It's a time in both their lives when a change has to be made."

___

Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

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