French is the lead character of "The Downtowners," the animated sitcom from Castle Rock Entertainment coming to the WB this fall as that network's first foray into the prime-time cartoon genre.
Mr. Oakley is co-creator of the show, along with fellow "Simpsons" alumnus Josh Weinstein, and he calls it a cross between "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill" and "South Park."
"We want this to be cutting-edge television," said Mr. Oakley.
TREND TO EDGY ANIMATION
When "The Downtowners" debuts, it will join a growing number of edgy prime-time animated shows that increasingly are meeting advertiser resistance. Coca-Cola Co., KFC Corp. and Philip Morris USA, have pulled advertising from Fox's "Family Guy," citing content reasons; Coca-Cola also yanked its ads from Fox's "The PJs."
Jed Petrick, the WB's senior VP-media sales, said no marketers or agency media buyers expressed any concerns about "The Downtowners" during upfront sales. However, marketers and ad agencies have yet to see a completed episode.
Mr. Oakley said the show fills a programming void in that it is targeted to high-schoolers and those just out of high-school.
"With 'The Simpsons,' you have Bart and Lisa, and they aren't high-school age, so you can't deal with a lot of subjects," he noted.
For example, Mr. Oakley said planned episodes will deal frankly -- and, he hopes, humorously -- with such subjects as masturbation, first-time sex and condom usage. "The Downtowners" also will have supporting characters who are gay, and one episode will deal with how the gay couple met.
NOT LIKE 'SOUTH PARK'
Although "this show won't be crude like 'South Park,' " Mr. Oakley said, "we fully expect it to be rated TV-14. We don't want young kids watching. We'd rather have them flip over and watch TGIF on ABC."
TGIF is what ABC calls its family viewing block on Friday nights.
"I think that's a little naive," said one agency media buyer. "In a perfect world that happens. But you put a cartoon on at 8 [p.m.] Fridays, and you're going to draw some kids."
Mr. Oakley confirmed the WB is likely to move "The Downtowners" from its