The Fox station group will air Warner Bros.’ Beyond Twisted, in an eight-week trial starting Monday, July 6, on six Fox owned stations, say Frank Cicha, senior vice president of programming for the Fox Television Stations and Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
Half-hour strip Beyond Twisted will be executive produced by Telepictures’ Harvey Levin, who also produces TMZ. The show will draw content from both professionally-produced and user-generated video. The show’s point of view will be much like TMZ’s: conversational, funny and a bit edgy.
“We’ve been fascinated by this sort of material for a while,” says Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of Telepictures Productions. “People are emailing me these clips all day long and everyone is always talking about these crazy videos they see online.”
“This is a show about funny, bizarre and engaging news from all over the world,” says Levin. “If there’s a parallel to draw, you’ve got the three network newscasts and then along comes Jon Stewart. This will be an irreverent take where you can take the same material and treat it totally differently.”
Stations that will test Beyond Twisted include WNYW New York, KTTV Los Angeles, KDFW Dallas, WJVK Detroit, KSAZ Phoenix and KMSP Minneapolis. Stations are expected to run the show between 6 p.m. and midnight, with the possibility that double-runs in daytime will be added.
If the test goes well, Warner Bros. will take the show to the market for a fall 2010 premiere.
“After our test with [Debmar-Mercury’s] Wendy Williams succeeded last summer, we decided that this was going to be a blueprint for the future,” said Cicha. “Plus, testing shows gives you an opportunity to take many more at-bats.
“Today, first-run syndication is more about survival for both syndicators and stations and less about leverage. What can both sides do to cooperate, not lose tons of money and still put compelling programming on the air?”
Levin says he loves the fact that he’s getting an opportunity to test the show in front of audiences instead of just shooting a pilot and showing it to a focus group or two before launch. “Every night will be a focus group, and it’s coming during the summer when a lot of other shows have gone to sleep,” he says.
Over the past few years, the Fox stations have been evolving into more news- and information-focused outlets, expanding their local news casts and investing in more day-and-date syndicated programming, whether those are entertainment-oriented shows such as NBC Universal’s Access Hollywood or TMZ, or new talk shows such as Sony’s Dr. Oz or Wendy Williams.
Fox is debuting two new off-net sitcoms this fall – The Office and My Name is Earl – but it also has Bernie Mac and Malcolm in the Middle departing its air in fall 2010 and Seinfeld in March 2011. Instead of replacing that product exclusively with off-net, Cicha says shows like Beyond Twisted -- day and date, nearly Tivo-proof, and original almost every day of the year -- are “the type of programs we want to explore, especially on the Fox side of our station group.”