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Stone Stanley hoists cup of resiliency.

HOLLYWOOD Comedy Central's highly touted new sketch comedy series "The Man Show," which landed the coveted timeslot following "South Park," gleefully celebrates the kind of lowbrow, locker room humor that separates the beer drinkers from the Cabernet sippers.

So, too, are the men behind "The Man Show" proud of their hard-won status as scrappy independent producers crashing the VIPs-only cocktail party that is the TV biz.

Scott Stone, 43, and David Stanley, 47, have enjoyed a handful Of hits and their share of misses in the 10 years they've been partners in Hollywood-based Stone Stanley Prods.

`Teen' beginnings

In the beginning, there was a 40-episode order from the Disney Channel for the short-lived gameshow "Teen Win, Lose or Draw." From there, Stone Stanley kept itself in the vanguard of those producers wily enough to deliver distinctive programs on shoestring, cable-sized budgets.

"Creating shows and producing is not only the fun part of the business, it's the easier part for us," Stone says. "Getting other people to give us their money--that's the hard part."

Today, Stone Stanley is still lean and nimble, but it's growing steadily enough to warrant a small roster of development deals as well as such amenities as a dedicated business affairs exec.

Turn toward toons

The partners have been bitten by the animation bug, recently pacting with animator Walter Santucci and the rock band the B-52s to develop a campy cartoon series.

Like most indies, Stone and Stanley cite the personal touch--the partners' commitment to shepherding all of their projects from pitch to post-production--as a key incentive for free-spirit creative types to come to them rather than a big-time conglom.

"There aren't too many other places in our industry where the people responsible for selling the show are the same people who see it through to the very end," Stanley says.

"It's been a conscious decision on our part never to get too far removed from the production process. So much of (the TV biz) revolves around paper and deals and balance sheets, and it's easy to lose sight of the fact that it's really all about creative people and ideas," Stanley says.

Stone and Stanley first hooked up at the powerhouse indie Lorimar Telepictures Prods. in the mid-1980s. Stone was working as a top syndie development exec, while Stanley, a law school grad who now calls himself a "recovering attorney," was toiling in business affairs.

Stone left Telepictures to hang out his own shingle in 1988, and by the time Warner Bros. acquired Lorimar Telepictures in 1989, Stanley was ready to join him.

"I used to tell David that in his job, he got to do the 80% of our business that is the really crappy part, and then hand the 20% that is really fun to jerks like me."

Stone Stanley Prods. scored its first home run in 1991 with the bow of the long-running Lifetime TV gameshow "Shop 'Til You Drop." While "Shop" reveled in rapid consumerism, Stone Stanley's "Legends of the Hidden Temple" series, which bowed on Nickelodeon in 1993 and lives on in reruns, presented history lessons in a quizshow-like format.

More recently, Stone Stanley has been the home of "Loveline," MTV's latenight call-in show. And last week, "The Man Show" soaked up the best debut rating in Comedy Central's history.

But hit shows aren't the only measure of success for Stone and Stanley. It takes true fortitude for an indie to survive a few setbacks, Stanley says.

Details of a `Deal'

Case in point: "Let's Make a Deal." Stone Stanley acquired the rights to the gameshow more than five years ago and has been angling to get a revival on the air ever since.

Door No. 1 slammed shut in mid-1997 when the erstwhile Family Channel cabler, which had committed to 65 segs, was scooped up and thoroughly revamped by Fox.

Door No. 2 closed earlier this year when a syndie deal with Buena Vista TV fell apart days before production was set to begin because "Deal" couldn't finagle clearances in the crucial markets of New York and Los Angeles--even though more than 100 other stations were on board for a fall bow.

"We were counting on the cash flow, ready to go forward with our crew and then all of a sudden, it was like, `Oh, never mind,'" Stone says, noting that they had a similar last-minute, near-death experience with "Loveline" before MTV picked up the show.

"Things like that are enough to kill a company that hasn't had the kind of legs we've had," Stanley says. In unison, the partners quickly add that they're confident Door No. 3 will be opening for "Deal" very soon.
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Author:LITTLETON, CYNTHIA
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 21, 1999
Words:776
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