Trying to find what works
By Susanne Ault -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/5/2000 7:00:00 PM
In syndication, failure begets opportunity. So by that calculation, there should be nothing but upside at the NATPE 2001 convention. Much of what's new in syndication isn't working well, so there are plenty of holes to fill, and it's harder than ever to do it.
"Syndicators used to be able to say 'Trust me, I can produce X celebrity or X format. 'But the reality is that the audience told them that they can't," says Katz TV's Bill Carroll.
But, on the other hand, opportunity is all over the place. There have been few success stories in 2000. And there are perennial rumors Rosie O'Donnell will leave her talk show after 2002, but even if that's not true, the fact is that syndicated strips like hers are aging.
Here's a passel of shows knocking at NATPE's door (unless stated otherwise, none is a firm go):
Universal Worldwide Television is currently having meetings with stations on Rapid Dating (also known as Speed Dating ), which would star real people getting to know each other using Orthodox Jewish dating principles. Also from Universal is 7 Deadly Questions, which would feature co-eds playing ice-breaker games in a limo.
Lions Gate Television, in association with Fisher Entertainment is shopping stations with Who Wants To Date a Hooters Girl? (There's a question to ponder.) The late-night game/relationship strip would incorporate the Hooters restaurant waitresses into the show. Studios USA Domestic Television is mulling syndicating Sci-Fi Channel's Crossing Over With John Edward, where Edward channels the thoughts of dead relatives to family members. Not surprisingly, Tribune Entertainment sold one-hour daytime stripTalk or Walk to its own Tribune Broadcasting, clearing the strip in 38% of the country and jump-starting its NATPE business. It features a studio audience deciding whether feuding people should "talk" out their differences or "walk" away from hammering out a resolution . At Paramount Domestic Television, a late nightstrip called Rendez View has celebrities making snappy comments from a studio while a camera follows a blind date.
FOX Television Stations chairman Mitch Stern said Twentieth Television is "seriously looking at six or seven projects." But with Bob Cook just now stepping in as Twentieth's president, final decisions haven't been made. Sources say Twentieth's offering might be Big Diet from Big Brother producers Endemol. In this one, people try to top each other exercising, and the winner gets whatever weight he or she loses-in gold.
Nothing has been officially greenlit for production, but Elimidate from Warner Bros./Telepictures is already out in the market to stations. The half-hour strip matches up one girl with four guys (or vice versa), and the featured suitors whittle down their prospects to one relationship-worthy individual, while the contenders try to sabotage each other's chances. It's "as catty as can be," says one source close to the project. High praise.
OPRAHLIKE & OTHERWISE
One definite is Iyanla from Buena Vista, executive produced by Barbara Walters and hosted by self-help author Iyanla Vanzant, who's been an Oprah guest a dozen times in the last year.
With executive producer Mark Lipinski (senior producer on The View ) already attached, the Studios USA 's daytime talk show entry seems to be QVC's popular Kathy Levine, well known to viewers there, and coming in to NATPE with a built-in fan base. Her show is all but a done deal.
CBS Enterprises/King World is looking at a new talk show starring MTV talent Ananda Lewis (think Oprah for the next generation); While the new syndication division started by NBC and headed by former CBS Enterprises/King World President Ed Wilson, hasn't given The Other View the final NATPE nod, "we have every intention to take this out," says an NBC representative. The Other View is ABC's The View in reverse, with a panel of male hosts (Dick Clark, Danny Bonaduce, Extra weekend anchor Steve Santagati and plastic surgeon Dr. Jan Adams).
Look for a potential catfight between this one and Twentieth Television's similarly themedThe Real Deal, a guy-skewing talker featuring Alan Thicke.
At Paramount so far, Caroline, a daytime chat/how-to series starring comedian Caroline Rhea, is its official and biggest NATPE gun. Rumors are she could be an early replacement for Dr. Laura, but s tudio officials say Caroline is designed for fall 2001.
ColumbiaTri-Star Distribution's top projects in strip starring development are a late-night strip starring Tom Arnold, a new spin on the classic Gong Show titled People Vs . and a possible series with Carmen Electra. Its lead project is a revamped Pyramid game show, with the jackpot likely worth more than $25,000.
Hearst Entertainment journeys to NATPE with The Bravest, a weekly action hour showcasing heroic firefighters. Children's weekly program Pet Shop will also be shopped.
MGM'sChat Room America, a no-go out of last year's NATPE, has been given another shot. Pearson's high priority project is the return of Card Sharks, but it hasn't officially gone out to stations.
At Promark, its The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne was filmed in high-definition at an estimated $2.5 million an episode. No domestic deal is in place for the weekly action hour, but international interest will financially buoy the project. Sources close to the studio say that 10 U.S. stations, three in top markets, have signed on.
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