By Michael Slezak
Updated September 01, 2005 at 12:00 PM EDT
Kelly Ripa: AP

Quick! Which of the following words and phrases belong together? Funny. Smart. Outrageous. Sitcom. Islamic terrorist cell. Kelly Ripa.

For Grey’s Anatomy scribe Mark F. Wilding and his writing partner Mark Jordan Legan, the answer is all of the above. That’s because their script for a show called The Cell, about a trio of Al Quaeda-esque operatives sent to Chicago to plan an attack against America, is apparently the hottest thing in Hollywood — even though it’s not getting produced. One scene described in the New York Times finds a character named Ahmed unable to ask the local Jewish florist for a date. ”You’re bright, you’re funny, you’re talented,” notes his buddy. ”Who made the best nail bomb in training camp? You did!” Other ”wacky” high jinks include the accidental explosion of a fertilizer bomb that helps Abu win a bowling tournament, and the use of Kelly Ripa’s name as a secret password.

In fine PopWatch tradition, let’s all take 30 seconds to digest.

Alrighty, then.

Now I realize EW.com’s recent poll on 9/11-related movies shows almost half of you are okay with productions that examine the nearly four-year-old tragedy, but a terror-based sitcom? There’s something about the whole idea that makes me queasy. For starters, most network comedies that try to be ”edgy” end up a lot closer to appalling. (For evidence, check out Fox’s woeful new series, The War at Home). And there’s something thisclose to smug about the way Wilding talks about the challenges of making his show’s subject matter both funny and producible. ”They always want you to think outside the box, then when you do, they say, ‘What the hell’s the matter with you?’ ” he offers.

I dunno, Mark, if thinking outside the box yields punchline about young suicide bombers accidentally killing themselves, I’ll stick to Hope & Faith reruns. What do you think? Could The Cell be TV’s next M.A.S.H., or is it better off stuck in development purgatory?

addCredit(“Kelly Ripa: AP”)

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