In the 1990s, when daytime TV was awash with talk shows that paraded the hideous personal problems of seemingly average people, actress Ricki Lake (Hairspray, Mrs. Winterbourne) launched what turned out to be one of the genre’s longer-lived franchises. Ricki Lake ended just last year, after 11 years in syndication. But while Sally Jessy Raphael, Jenny Jones and others from that era seem to have tossed in the TV microphone for good, Lake is gearing up to get back in the game.
Negotiations are underway for the development of a new Lake project that could be on the air by next fall.
ICM has been shopping the idea around Hollywood for the past few weeks, according to a source familiar with the project, and three studios have expressed interest in pursuing it.
But aspiring talk-show guests who’ve been depressed by contraction in the business shouldn’t dust off their tales of slutty man-stealing sisters and good-for-nothing thieving boyfriends just yet. The new Lake show, which was originally pitched with a format similar to ABC’s multi-voiced and more decorous The View, has since been recast as a solo effort—but one that would still be aimed at a female demo a bit older than the younger audience courted by Lake’s previous show. After all, when she launched Ricki Lake in 1993, the host was in her mid-20s. Now Lake’s a 37-year-old divorced, single mother. (And still acting: She recently completed work on an indie film, Park, directed by Kurt Voelker.)
Lake would have a significant ownership interest in the show, which complicates the deal-making process. But negotiations are moving ahead. “I would be very surprised,” says our source, “if there was not a coming-to-terms on this by the end of the month.”
A&E execs may have come up with a novel solution to the knotty problem of how to open up programming effectively to brand integration. With product placement taking an ever-bigger role on TV shows, networks have struggled to make creative types work smoothly with advertising interests. A&E has simply inserted a marketing professional in the programming department and tasked her with the job. The network recently lured Elaine Frontain Bryant from Magna Global Entertainment and created a new title for her: Director, Non-fiction and Alternative Programming.
Not that Frontain Bryant doesn’t have production experience. At Magna, she served as VP, creative development and production, overseeing creation and production of sponsor-bankrolled original programming. She was an executive producer on TNT’s Emmy-nominated movie The Wool Cap and CBS’ Saving Milly. She also helped produce the first two seasons of Bravo’s Blow Out. Before joining Magna, she directed and produced two seasons of The N’s reality show Girls v. Boys and produced episodes for the network’s Peabody-winning A Walk in Your Shoes. Frontain Bryant also produced the 1998 indie flick The Farmhouse with Blythe Danner.
Her hiring was spearheaded by A&E’s SVP of Nonfiction and Alternative Programming Nancy Dubuc, who says she had grown weary of trying to make the awkward fit between programmers and marketers work. “A lot of it’s just knowing what people are talking about,” Dubuc says. “We go to those meetings and they talk all in brand-­integration terms, and we kind of look at each other like, 'Oh, God, what’s this mean?’ She’s well versed and has a great vocabulary in both disciplines.” Now she can put that vocab to work selling Criss Angel Mindfreak.
In Flash!’s continuing effort to keep readers abreast of what’s in the reality-TV pipeline, we pass along this recent casting call, headlined “Cinderella for a Day,” courtesy of RealityTVLinks.com:
Star in a Segment of a New Two Minute Television Series: Do you have a big event coming up and want to look/feel/be fabulous? We are looking for one woman for Show #1 who is 35-50 and has an interesting story and an important day or evening coming. You will get a “transformation” for your big day. No surgical procedures and nothing invasive. You and your story will be on TV, on major web portals and on other media.
Nothing “invasive,” you understand, other than having your story plastered all over television, major web portals and other media.