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Still there after eight years

5/13/2001 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Ricki, airing its 1,500th episode on Monday, has a lot to crow about.

After eight seasons on the air, it is the No. 1 talk show among females 18-24, according to Nielsen research, through April 1. Also, by being slotted at 5 p.m. in seven of the top 10 markets, Ricki is second only to talk queen Oprah in the consistent number of time periods it holds.

The show has been a boon to WPWR-TV Chicago, which has run it for all eight seasons. Programming Director Tom Feie says Ricki got the station’s late-afternoon daypart finally “to start showing signs of life.” Before Ricki came onto the scene at 5 p.m., “you name it, they tried it. It was doing nothing in that time slot.”

It’s no wonder that passing the 1,500-episode milestone was an emotional experience for all involved. “My eyes just filled with tears,” recalls Executive Producer Gail Steinberg. “It was a huge accomplishment. When you think about the mortality rate of shows in this genre, it’s an accomplishment to stay on for more than one season, let alone eight.”

Steinberg attributes the show’s long life to host Ricki Lake’s genuine devotion to such social causes as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The show regularly crafts episodes to teach teen girls how tough it is to raise a child. Since the topic “affects a significant portion of Ricki’s audience,” says Steinberg, it helps make ratings for these shows “wonderful.”

A teen-pregnancy episode that ran Nov. 24, 2000, delivered a 2.5 weighted metered-market average, tying the show’s best performance during that sweeps period. A similarly themed episode on April 27 rang up a 2.0.

Despite some arguably stiff talk competition coming next fall, including Iyanla—executive- produced by Barbara Walters—Steinberg is confident that Ricki can stay viable. “Believe it or not, in eight years, 1,500 shows, there are so many things we haven’t tried yet.” For instance, Ricki just embraced the reality trend with “Baby, We’re Together Now, But Will We Be After a Week of Temptation on Manhattan Island?,” set to air later this month.

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