That's just one of the "faith-based" initiatives the informal panel has helped TBS develop, as the network looks to target African-Americans and plug the half-hour show.
"Payne" is about three generations of an African-American family living under one roof and dealing with contemporary issues. Namesake Perry--an actor (star of 2005's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and then "Madea's Family Reunion"), as well as producer and director--will make an appearance in the pilot.
The ministers' weekly electronic communications will emphasize messages delivered in each week's episodes and "offer advice on dealing with similar situations." Also on the faith-based marketing front, there is a program encouraging church members to write an essay about why their congregation should win $25,000 from the show/TBS. The contest will be promoted on targeted radio and online outlets, as well as messages in churches in 18 markets.
The show debuts nationally June 6--it's had a test run in syndication--with back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. TBS has a lot riding on the program, with 100 episodes coming. "Payne" will also be available via broadband and VOD.
In the last year, many networks have made premiere episodes of shows available online before their TV debut. TBS is doing the same for Perry's show at family gatherings at 20 churches in eight markets, giving congregants and others the opportunity to view behind-the-scenes footage.
Not all grassroots efforts to jump-start the comedy, however, involve a pulpit. "House of Payne"-branded ice cream trucks will roll out in several markets distributing free show-related popsicles. Besides the ministers, Magic Johnson's marketing shop Z Magic will also send out weekly e-mails, which TBS says will reach more than 12 million people.
And a local radio promotion will tout an "Ease the Payne at the Gas Pump" opportunity for listeners to receive a free fill-up--no small enticement with gas prices soaring. There's also the chance to win a free mortgage payment from the show and TBS.