Life on the Street
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/27/2004 8:00:00 PM
Never underestimate the intelligence of the average audience. Jay Leno gets guaranteed laughs on The Tonight Show when he holds up photos of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and no one can identify them. Street Smarts took that concept and turned it into a show. And despite ratings that tie at No. 86 with the canceled Sharon Osbourne and Ex-Treme Dating, the show managed to get to season five. On June 14, GSN: The Network for Games started running it at 11 p.m. weeknights.
Hosted by comedian Frank Nicotero, Street Smarts poses questions to the unsuspecting nationwide. Examples: "If you have a bookie, what are you doing?" and "If a policeman has a piece, what is he carrying?" In-studio contestants then have to bet on who got the right answer. "This is a nicely spirited, funny show," says Executive Producer Carla Kaufman Sloan. "We're not out to hurt anyone."
Street Smarts is popular with younger viewers, a rarity among games. That's why GSN picked up 640 episodes for a cash license fee. "It clearly falls under the definition of what we want to be doing," says GSN Vice President of Programming Kevin Belinkoff.
So how much do the ratings matter?
Street Smarts represents a business philosophy at Warner Bros. With available time slots dwindling, the syndicator can keep a show that is cheap to produce and brings in a profit. Street Smarts had a strong May sweeps but, airing mostly in late-night time slots, averages only a 1.0 national household rating. Falling into a similar category are ElimiDate, which most recently scored a 1.4, and Celebrity Justice, with a 1.1.
Shows rarely go from syndication to cable, but, as the number of broadcast-group buyers shrink, syndicators are looking for other customers. Warner Bros. has kept costs down by reducing the number of episodes it produces each year. Street Smarts started at 170 episodes a year and is now down to 130.
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