Is ABC getting Friend-lier or what? Matthew Perry has signed a deal with the network that airs Courteney Cox’s Cougar Town to star in, executive produce, and co-write a potential comedy series about a self-consumed 40-year-old manager of a second-rate sports arena who’s reluctantly learning to be a nicer guy. “We’re trying to do a show that’s really, really funny and can slow down and play some heartfelt moments,” Perry tells “All of this stuff originally came from watching a lot of Alan Partridge and the British Office, and just wanting to go be funny again.” As for the setting? “The idea of where the guy works I ripped off from a 1981 Burt Reynolds movie, Paternity,” he cracks. “He ran Madison Square Garden. I was like, “It’s an okay movie, but what a cool job he had.’ [An arena] is a place where a lot of crazy things can come through.”

Not unlike his character on NBC’s 2006-2007 showbiz dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (Perry’s last regular TV gig), he’s playing the role of script writer in real life; he’s penning the pilot with Alex Barnow and Mark Firek (Family Guy, ‘Til Death). “I was curious what the process of sitting down and facing the page would be like and was really relieved that I liked the challenge of it,” Perry says. “And it gives me something to do when I can’t sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Although his last two TV series aired on NBC, Perry chose ABC for this project. “[ABC Entertainment president] Steve McPherson is a very smart dude and he has obviously shown this year that he can launch comedy, so it seemed like a smart place to do the show,” he says. “Clearly, they were the right choice alphabetically as well.”

Asked if the inventive Seinfeld reunion on Curb Your Enthusiasm has made him more interested in a Friends reunion of some kind, Perry quips: “Someone who executive produced or who starred in the show needs to be on a hilarious cable show for about eight years and then bring us all on and we’ll do it…. I think it’s much more fun to see them on screen that way than if we just did some Thanksgiving reunion like, “Hey, Monica! How ya been?”

For more on Matthew Perry’s new TV project, check out the Hollywood Insider page in this week’s EW.

PHOTO CREDIT: Ian Daniels/