Chris Haston
June 25, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Some summer vacation: The start of ”Providence”’s second season is still three months away, and creator John Masius and his writing staff are already at work on next fall’s scripts. Masius tells EW Online that the relationship between Syd (Melina Kanakaredes) and her limo-driving ex-high school flame Kyle (Tom Verica) will become far more complicated — easy to believe since not only are they in the midst of a will-they-won’t-they romantic pas a deux, but she’s also his doctor, and at the end of last season she discovered he may lose an arm to cancer.

”Providence” will feature some NBC synergy at the beginning of the season, when the comedian star of ”The Mike O’Malley Show” (the upcoming sitcom that NBC has been unrelentingly touting this summer) will appear on a four-episode arc as Dog Boy, a patient who starts acting, a little, well, poochy. ”He’s exhibiting a lot of dog characteristics, but he’s not licking his balls, you know,” says Masius. ”It’s basically about a guy who gets lost in his identity. He’s more comfortable in the animal world than the human world.”

Believe it or not, this bit of cross-casting wasn’t orchestrated by NBC. Masius had dreamed up the canine character last year and wanted to cast O’Malley after seeing his ESPN ads (in which he plays Rick, the frenetic Boston Bruin jersey-wearing sports fanatic), but he never contacted the comic because he decided to push the story to next year. ”Lo and behold,” says Masius, ”I get to New York (this spring) for the Upfront Sales conference (where the network announced its fall lineup), and there he is with ‘The Mike O’Malley Show.’ I’d never met him before, but I pitched him and he went for it big time.” Sure, it wasn’t NBC’s idea THIS time, but how long until NBC demands that Dog Boy rolls over for ”Friends”?

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