Maybe Studios USA should have consulted with psychic John Edward before going forward with planning shows in which he was to conduct séances with victims of the World Trade Center tragedy on the syndicator's Crossing Over With John Edward.
The day after news broke on BROADCASTING & CABLE's Web site and daily TV Fax that the WTC Crossing Over
shows were taking shape, Steve Rosenberg, Studio USA's domestic syndication president, was flooded with negative calls. He pulled the plug on the shows last Thursday, even though some of the material, featuring medium John Edward contacting terrorist-attack victims for surviving family members, had already been taped.
"There was a reaction that none of us expected," explained Rosenberg. That included calls from CBS executives—WCBS-TV currently carries the show in New York—and word was, they ultimately decided not to air this one.
Rosenberg remembered one CBS executive's telling him, "Oh, my God, this is going to seem so exploitative!"
At first, Rosenberg reassured him that the ball got rolling on these episodes not because the November sweeps was on the horizon—this was when the shows were tentatively scheduled to air—but because of "how badly these people wanted to see John."
So far, Crossing Over's success on cable's Sci Fi channel hasn't completely carried over to syndication, suggesting that the show could use some buzz. But Rosenberg insisted that "the last thing we wanted to do was to take advantage of the situation. But when you look at the show, it's really about healing and trying to make you feel better."
Since Sept. 11, Edward has done several psychic readings for family members affected by the tragedy in his own private practice, which he ran for years before the show debuted.
"We have too good a show to take a chance on doing something that might offend the audience," Rosenberg said, explaining how he made the decision.
But perhaps it was hard to gauge reaction to the idea ahead of time. CBS announced it was tinkering with the idea of a sitcom featuring a man and woman who bond after their mates perish in the World Trade Center tragedy, but that idea has been quietly dropped. The West Wing
and Third Watch
have already incorporated WTC-related themes into their plot lines.