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'SNL' Alum's New Series Challenges the Traditional TV Business Model Deadline

A former cast member on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" is returning to series television with a project he hopes "shakes up Hollywood."

Nellie Andreeva reports on Deadline.com that actor and comedian Rob Schneider is "self-financing and starring in an eight-episode independently produced comedy series he co-wrote with his wife, Mexican writer-producer Patricia Azarcoya Schneider, who will co-star on the show, and his friend, comedian Jamie Lissow."

Schneider's 2012 sitcom "Rob," which had a short run on CBS, has some parallels to the new project, which is loosely based on Schneider's life and, like "Rob," will feature a professional actress in the role of his wife.

"But the similarities end there," Andreeva writes. "'Rob,' which is the subject of a joke in the pilot of the new series, was a traditional multi-camera, multi-generational sitcom about a guy, his Mexican wife and his in-laws. As the title of the new series, 'Real Rob,' indicates, it is a more honest portrayal of 'an exaggerated version of my life,' Schneider said."

Schneider adds: “I’m not afraid to expose aspects of my life; this is close to the bone.”

"The single-camera, documentary-style half-hour is edgier, geared to cable networks," Andreeva writes. "It centers on Rob, playing a version of himself, his Mexican wife Patricia, also playing herself, Rob’s incompetent assistant whom he cannot fire because he is his friend, and Rob’s personal stalker. The narrative is punctuated by Schneider doing stand-up bits in the vein of FX’s 'Louie' and the early years of 'Seinfeld.'"

All eight scripts, written by the Schneiders and Lissow, are reportedly done, and casting is under way. Shooting is set to start March 3 in L.A. and Florida.

A key focus for the independent production has been keeping costs down. Said Schneider: “The biggest expense on 'Rob' was Rob Schneider, and we managed to cut that cost down to zero."

Andreeva adds: "To mount a series production without the backing of a studio, the Schneiders have relied on help from friends. Schneider is footing most of the bill as 'the majority shareholder on the show' -- 'I’m putting my money where my mouth is,' he said -- but he also has silent financial partners. Also helping out are veteran casting director and former Warner Bros. head of casting Marcia Ross, who is doing the casting, and Mexican cinematographer Carlos Hidalgo Valdes, who is behind the camera. Everyone is getting paid below their regular rate but 'we will all share in success,' Schneider said."

Schneider reportedly has plans to distribute the show internationally, and has his eye on outlets including FX, HBO, Showtime and Netflix.

Said Schneider: “If I pull this off, other actors are going to realize that they can go around the networks and studios and get their shows out to the public. This is an important step in artists controlling their own destiny.”

rob schneider.jpgRob Schneider