Syndication and Distribution

Talk It Up

Big spurt in daytime development 5/24/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Talk, talk, talk. Despite their high failure rate, syndicators have at least 10 daytime talk shows in development.

New to the list is evangelical pastor T.D. Jakes, around whom Stage 29 Productions, Dr. Phil McGraw’s production company, is developing a talk show. And last week, rumors were swirling that actress Patricia Heaton and former model and reality-show maven Janice Dickinson each are seeking distributors for their own talk shows.

Of the three, Jakes appears most likely to succeed. Just as McGraw himself did on the CBS-distributed The Oprah Winfrey Show, Jakes appears frequently on CBS’s Dr. Phil. Winfrey’s production company, Harpo, spun Dr. Phil off into its own program in 2002, and later did the same thing with CBS’s Rachael Ray in 2006. In fall 2009, Harpo will premiere Dr. Oz, starring frequent Oprah contributor and respected cardiologist Dr. Mehmet Oz.

McGraw already is taking a page from that book with The Doctors, which premieres on stations this fall. McGraw’s company is producing that show, and his son, Jay, is executive producing, while CBS will distribute.

While Jakes is hardly a household name, in February 2005, he was named one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” by Time magazine. He founded and leads The Potter’s House, a multi-racial, non-denominational mega-church based in Dallas, although his massive empire stretches much further than the church, which now boasts more than 30,000 members.

Unlike Jakes, neither Heaton nor Dickinson is yet attached to a syndicator, although several have indicated interest in producing a vehicle for Heaton. Dickinson, who sources say is shopping herself around to syndicators, is the longest shot of the three.

Syndication sources say Heaton was interested in doing a daytime talker after CBS’s Everybody Loves Raymond ended its run in 2005, but removed herself from consideration once her Fox sitcom, Back to You, got the greenlight. Now that the show is cancelled, Heaton’s name is back on the syndie development circuit.

Dickinson is a former supermodel who returned to the pop-culture scene after she served as a judge on The CW’s America’s Next Top Model —executive-produced and judged by Tyra Banks—for four seasons. After her run on that show ended, she appeared on season five of VH-1’s The Surreal Life and then launched her own reality show, Oxygen’s The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency.

Those three join a long list of talk shows already under development for 2009. Dr. Oz, for which Harpo has yet to decide on a distributor, so far is the most anticipated offering. Program Partners’ Marie, starring American sweetheart Marie Osmond, has the biggest head start, with clearance deals expected in the next few weeks.

Besides Oz, CBS is continuing to develop a show featuring former teen queen Valerie Bertinelli, while Harpo has signed former Cheers star Kirstie Alley to a development deal. Both Bertinelli and Alley have recently appeared on Oprah.

Warner Bros.’ hopes to follow in Rachael Ray’s footsteps with a show featuring folksy Food Network star Paula Dean. The Burbank-based studio also has been aggressively developing Web sites, such as MomLogic.com and Essence.com, in the hopes of creating the next TMZ.

And Sony is developing a show around Marissa Jaret Winokur—who won a Tony for her work in Broadway’s Hairspray, co-starred in Fox’s Stacked and most recently danced her way through ABC’s Dancing With the Stars—that it hopes will become the next Ricki Lake. Like Winokur, Lake got her start by starring in the original Hairspray, which inspired the Broadway show.

September
October