Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Fox is bringing back its groundbreaking 1990s sketch comedy series In Living Color with the series’ creator and star, Keenen Ivory Wayans, on board as host and executive producer. Fox has ordered two In Living Color half-hour specials to air as part of the network’s 25th anniversary celebration in midseason with a series option behind them, meaning that in success, the reboot will join Fox’s schedule as a regular series next season. I hear it was Wayans’ idea to revive the popular sketch comedy series with a new cast. The new In Living Color will be produced by his production company Ivory Way Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox TV’s Fox 21.

Like the remake, the original In Living Color, which was produced by Ivory Way Prods and 20th TV, also launched in midseason, premiering on April 15, 1990. It broke stereotypes by employing a cast of mostly black comedians and introducing hip-hop and dancing to mainstream television. The show helped launch the careers of a slew of comedy actors — its cast included Wayans; his siblings Damon, Shawn, Kim and later Marlon; as well as Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and David Alan Grier — and of course Jennifer Lopez as one of the Fly Girls. It spawned such iconic characters as “Men on Film,” starring flamboyant film critics Blaine Edwards (Damon Wayans) and Antoine Merriweather (Grier); Homey D. Clown (Damon Wayans), a dour urban kiddie entertainer whose catchphrase was “Homey don’t play that!”; streetwise scam artists “The Home Boys” (Keenen Ivory and Damon Wayans); and Fire Marshall Bill (Jim Carrey), a disfigured safety expert. In Living Color gave its actors freedom to improvise and it skewered everyone, particularly black America. In probably the most successful programming stunt opposite the Super Bowl ever, a special live edition of In Living Color drew some 25 million viewers during the halftime of the 1992 Super Bowl on CBS. But the show’s fearlessness when it comes to the targets of its jokes and the unapologetic political incorrectness of its skits often ran afoul with Fox’s censors. The frequent clashes contributed to Wayans’ departure from the show after the third season though he remained an executive producer. In Living Color ended its run in May 1994 after five seasons.

Fox has long been looking to launch a successful new sketch comedy series. Last season, it tried with In The Flow With Affion Crockett, executive produced by In Living Color alum Foxx, which was originally slated for midseason but ultimately aired in the summer to low ratings. Keenen Ivory Wayans, repped by UTA, has been focused on features for the past 15 years, directing, writing and producing the successful Scary Movie franchise as well as White Chicks and Little Man, on which he worked with his brothers. At Fox 21, In Living Color joins series Homeland, Breakout Kings and Sons Of Anarchy.

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