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Syndication Decides It Needs a Makeover

11/16/2003 07:00:00 PM Eastern

Hoping to find a few badly needed hits, syndicators are developing or shopping several shows for fall 2004 in which experts take one average person, hairstyle, home, family or life and turn it into something, well, better.

NBC is considering three such makeover shows, all half-hour strips, for 2004. The most-likely-to-succeed of this class may be a spinoff of the popular Queer Eye
from the show's executive producers, David Metzler and David Collins. Called Gal Pals, the show will feature several gay experts, likely more than Queer Eye's Fab Five, giving "life makeovers" to women.

NBC also is considering two other makeover shows. On You Better Be Ready, QVC hosts Nick Chavez and Stacey Schieffelin will pull people from a live studio audience and make them over on the spot. In Nobody's Perfect, from MTV executive producer Bob Kusbit, one person will recommend a makeover for her best friend or husband or mother and end up getting one herself as well.

Ambush
Goes National

NBC will shoot pilots for all three shows and then decide whether it wants to produce any or all of them for next fall.

Twentieth Television is starting to sell nationally Ambush Makeover, which it has been testing on Fox's 25 owned-and-operated stations since July. In that show, style experts rove the streets to find someone who would benefit from a makeover.

The syndicator is particularly encouraged by the demographic performance of Ambush, which is averaging a 1.7 rating in Nielsen's weighted metered markets and has a high percentage of young women tuning in. "Our focus for new shows is what is the demo performance and how the local markets are doing," says President Bob Cook. "If it wasn't performing in the local demos and if it wasn't making money, we wouldn't roll it out."

On the non-makeover front, Twentieth has been testing Classmates
on the Fox O&Os but has decided to let that show incubate a while longer. The syndicator has its hands full with the launch of On Air With Ryan Seacrest
in January.

Sony is selling Pat Croce: Moving In, in which motivational speaker and life coach Croce literally takes up residence with families and helps them sort out their issues. Universal is also working on a half-hour "Trading Spaces-meets-Dr. Phil" strip from producer Denise Cramsey, executive producer of the TLC hit.

Daytime shows on tap

Even with all those makeover shows on the horizon, plenty of regular daytime fare is planned for fall 2004. NBC Enterprises has cleared The Jane Pauley Show
in more than 75% of the country, and Paramount has fully cleared new access show The Insider.

Industry insiders expect there to be many time periods available on major launch groups. NBC's The John Walsh Show
is unlikely to be renewed and might not make it through this entire season. NBC plans to stick with Starting Over, which is averaging a 1.0 national household rating, through the entire year, but the daytime reality show needs to show some real growth for NBC to renew it.

King World's Living It Up! With Ali & Jack,
also languishing around a 1.0 national rating, is expected to be either revamped or replaced by something else in King World's arsenal, possibly Martha Stewart Living,
depending on how Stewart fares in federal court this January, sources say. King World has two-year deals with stations for Living It Up, however, so it well could stay on the air, even with low ratings.

Buena Vista is bringing TV veteran Tony Danza back to the air in his own talk show. Industry observers question the future of BVT's Wayne Brady, which also has been lolling in 1.0 territory, but the syndicator still is hoping to see growth in it.

Ellen's a keeper

"There are a number of first-run syndicated shows on the bubble so we see the potential for good opportunity in the marketplace," says Buena Vista Television President Janice Marinelli. "It's our hope that, come fall 2004, the new Tony Danza show will join Wayne Brady
and Live with Regis and Kelly
as part of Buena Vista Television's roster of daytime talk shows."

Of 2003's new first-run strips, only The Ellen Degeneres Show
is assured a return, industry sources say, and Warner Bros. is already out trying to renew the show.

Warner Bros.'The Sharon Osbourne Show
is less sure of coming back. The show is down 29% from its lead-in and down 6% compared with its year-ago time period. Whether Sharon
comes back will depend largely on whether the Tribune stations, the show's launch group, decides to keep it on the air.

Sony's syndie veteran Ricki Lake
also may go off the air, with the show's ratings dropping 15% year-to-year. The Fox station group, where Ricki
resides, ultimately will decide whether to bring the show back or not, sources say. Besides having Pat Croce
in the hopper, Sony also is rolling out Life & Style, featuring a panel of young women as hostesses, for fall 2004.

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