This Blind Date was no dud
Relationship strip attracts competition from Paramount, Columbia and Warner Bros.
By Susanne Ault -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/26/2000 7:00:00 PM
Universal has struck sparks between singles with its relationship strip Blind Date and has fired up flirtation from several competing syndicators.
On deck for possible fall 2001 launches are Paramount's Rendez-View, pitched as a cross between Blind Date and Politically Incorrect; Columbia TriStar's Shipmates, described as Love Boat meets Blind Date; and Warner Bros.' Elimidate, which is sort of a beefed-up Blind Date (one guy or gal with four potential suitors).
Everyone knows that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but can Blind Date stand up to the new competition next year?
"Usually, the first in the genre survives," says Katz TV's Bill Carroll. "It's the survival of the imitators that's something to look out for."
It's true that no one has knocked Judge Judy or Oprah off their No. 1 perch, but relationship shows sometimes follow a different pattern. " Love Connection got on the air, but after [Warner Bros.'] Change of Heart got on, Love Connection didn't return," remembers Carroll.
However, the overriding sense from stations is "they're placing Blind Date as the primary show and positioning the others as its complements," he says.
Even if Blind Date is still on good terms with stations, Universal is mounting a strike against new rivals with its own companion to Blind Date, The Fifth Wheel. Hosted by comic Aisha Tyler and produced by Blind Date producers David Garfinkle, Jay Renfroe and Thomas Klein, Fifth Wheel puts two guys and two gals into a limo, later introducing a fifth person into the group date.
"This could possibly be an ex, who upsets the romantic binds that have started to form," says Matt Cooperstein, Universal Worldwide Television's senior vice president of domestic distribution.
No deals have been announced for the show, currently being shopped to stations, "but the reception for it has been extremely positive," he says.
And all of these Cupid's arrows flying around haven't exactly punctured Cooperstein's spirit. " Blind Date was a hit in a new genre, so we knew there was going to be [more spins on the format]. But we were the first mover in the genre, and we'll be the second mover with The Fifth Wheel."
Ned Nalle, president of Universal Worldwide Television, believes the rollout of Fifth Wheel shortly after Blind Date will echo the studio's launch of Xena: Warrior Princess as a companion to Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In 1998, Studios USA acquired the action hours, but Universal still sells them overseas.
"As we told [ Hercules' producers], we told [ Blind Date's Garfinkle, Renfroe and Klein] that we need to evolve the form for creative and defensive reasons," says Nalle. "And they have. We are taking Blind Date to the next threshold."
Now in its sophomore season, Blind Date has secured such recent upgrades as a double run at 5:30 p.m. on KBHK-TV San Francisco and a second airing at 12:30 a.m. on KPRC-TV Houston.
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