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First-run incubation

Waiting in the wings are series on hip-hop lifestyles, celebs before the bar and matchmaking in the manse 1/06/2002 07:00:00 PM Eastern

While there are just over a dozen new first-run series that have been officially announced for next season in syndication, there are a lot more still under wraps.

A number of top Hollywood syndication studios, including Warner Bros., Columbia TriStar and MGM, are still finalizing their plans and trying to get traction on local stations before giving the green light for the 2002-2003 season.

Warner Bros. Domestic TV and co-owned Telepictures Distribution have four new potential series for next season, insiders say. Warner Bros. executives are said to still be developing and attempting to clear a daytime talk/variety series with comedienne/actress Caroline Rhea (Sabrina, The Teenage Witch).

It's a little déjà vu, of course. Rhea, who Paramount Domestic TV tried to bring out in a similar vehicle last season, was being billed as Rosie O'Donnell's replacement. O'Donnell is leaving the talk-show circuit at the end of this season, and Rhea's show is expected to incorporate some elements of O'Donnell's show. Warner Bros. executives have not announced any clearances for Rhea yet.

Warner Bros. is also bringing back Moral Court
after a one-year hiatus. The half-hour court series hosted by syndicated radio personality Larry Elder, aired during the 2000-2001 season and was pulled after one season. With the court-show market a little less crowded, Warner Bros. executives believe the show could find a sizeable audience next season.

Telepictures has a pair of series that will likely come out next season as well, Celebrity Justice
and Matchmaker Mansion.

Celebrity Justice
is actually a segment on the studio's current newsmagazine, Extra, that the studio is making into its own newsmagazine. The half-hour strip will profile civil conflicts and criminal investigations involving celebrities—maybe it should be called The Robert Downey Jr. Show.
And Matchmaker Mansion
is a reality/relationship hybrid series, where a different group of women each week seek romance among a group of bachelors while at a luxurious mansion.

Carsey-Werner is bringing out its initial first-run effort in syndication with Livin' Large. The one-hour weekend series is a lifestyles magazine described as a younger, hip-hop version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

"There are more and more young people with extreme affluence, and we are going to focus on their lives, their toys and their playgrounds," says Carsey-Werner's syndication head Bob Raleigh.

Tribune Entertainment is expected to bring out one of two action series it has in development. The studio behind Andromeda
and Mutant X
is deciding between SPQR, which chronicles an elite guard division that protects the emperor of Rome, and The Ultimate Adventure Co., which takes viewers around the globe searching for lost artifacts.

MGM Domestic TV is apparently going to wait until 2003 to launch Stargate Atlantis, a spin-off to veteran action series Stargate SG-1. But the studio may bring out pseudo court series Twisted Justice
or action series Spartacus
for the fall. MGM executives had no comment.

Insiders say Columbia TriStar has nearly a half-dozen projects in development for either first-run syndication or cable. The studio is still said to be developing a series with eBay, and it's shot a pilot with reality producer Endemol Entertainment for a series that listens to people's conversations at the beauty salon. Universal's syndication division is developing an action-hour based on the studio's popular movie The Fast and The Furious, and NBC Enterprises is said to be finalizing a deal to bring CNBC personality Chris Matthews to weekend syndication with a roundtable series that will be produced by NBC News.

March