News Articles

Primetime Gets a Makeover

Live telecasts, retro look are hooks to shake up the genre 9/19/2004 08:00:00 PM Eastern

The new look for ABC News' newsmagazine Primetime Live: retro. Revamped for its 15th season,
the show revives its original live format and hard-hitting investigations. And
in a nod to the 1960s, the closing segment will be "That Was the Week That
Was," a musical political satire modeled on the series that aired on the BBC
from 1962 to '63 and on NBC from '64 to '65. The goal, says executive producer
Shelley Ross, a former top producer of Good Morning
America
, is a more contemporary feel than typical newsmagazines.

Translation: Ross is hungry for a broader audience—and she's willing
to use sex and celebrities to get it. Broadcast news skews to 50-plus viewers;
newsmagazines creep even older. CBS's venerable 60
Minutes
targets baby boomers, not the MTV set.
Primetime Live isn't going the way of MTV,
but upcoming stories include a teen sex survey and an exposé on
Americans' sex lives. "If something is important," she says, justifying her
decision, "then it's important to everyone."

New anchors Diane Sawyer, Cynthia McFadden, John Quinones and Chris
Cuomo will rotate duties each week. To liven the show, new graphics and upbeat
music have been added. Ross is hoping the "That Was" segment will create
buzz.

Sawyer, who also co-hosts GMA, says
she's delighted with the return of live telecasts. But Primetime Live will be selective, says Ross: "We're
not going to blow up the show just for the sake of it."

Still, the competition remains fierce. News junkies can turn to cable
news networks for their prime time fix. Primetime
Live
shares the 10 p.m. timeslot with NBC's ER and CBS's popular mystery drama
Without a Trace. Its Sept. 16 premiere
earned a 1.4 rating in the key 18-49 demo and a 3.9 rating in households.
That's down from the 2003 premiere, which got a 3.8. Blame it, in part, on the
90-minute return of The Apprentice.

But Ross isn't fazed.

Earlier in her career, she was a senior producer for
Primetime Live, and went head-to-head with
L.A. Law. "It was a gorilla of a hit, but we
built every year against it," she recalls. Now she's counting on "That Was" and
sensational stories to hook viewers. "We have to return to appointment
viewing."

 

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