Seven Fox TV stations are preparing to launch an eight-week trial of Warner Bros.' Beyond Twisted starting July 6. It is the latest brainchild from Harvey Levin, TMZ's hyperkinetic executive producer who is coming off one of TMZ's biggest scoops yet, the death of pop star Michael Jackson.
As part of the launch, the stations came up with their own promotions that tell viewers simply but humorously exactly what they can expect. (VIDEO: Watch a promo clip for Beyond Twisted.)
Frank Cicha, Fox Television Stations' senior VP of programming, has embraced the notion of testing new first-run shows on his stations before making a commitment to them. “If this works, Warner Bros. will have eight weeks of ratings, 40 episodes and a deal with us to help them sell the show,” he says.
In today's tough syndication market, having those two things in place takes a distributor a long way toward completing a show's sale. When Fox runs this type of test, Cicha calls upon Leslie Lyndon, VP of promotion for FTS, to put together launch spots as part of the partnership—a task usually handled by the syndicator.
“That's become typical,” Cicha says. “We save distributors a lot of money by doing the promos in-house. We're more vested in our own stations than anyone else, so Leslie and her team deliver great material, the spots air frequently and both sides are happy.”
In the case of Beyond Twisted, creative-services directors from each station gathered on a conference call and pitched ideas to the show's production staff, including Levin. “Levin has so much enthusiasm for his project, you can't help but get caught up in it,” Lyndon says.
After batting around many ideas, John Kukla, VP of creative services at KDFW/KDFI Dallas/Fort Worth, and his team emerged the winners. “It's a very simple concept that makes you laugh,” Lyndon says. “I laugh every time I see it and if I laugh out loud, I know it works.”
Beyond Twisted compiles some of the world's most bizarre video clips and puts a TMZ-like spin on the production. Each of the Kukla team's spots for the show focuses on a single clip. In one spot, people in Saudi Arabia hang onto cars and skate along the pavement in giant flip-flop-like shoes at 60 mph. Kukla's team added the line: “Somewhere in the world…seat belts are optional.”
The spot then informs viewers where and when Beyond Twisted will appear, and adds the tagline: “You can't make this stuff up.”
While the task of creating five or more 15- and 20-second promos for seven stations certainly means more work for Kukla and his staff, it's the work that station creative executives most enjoy doing, he says: “It's something we love to do, and something we would love to do more.”
On July 6, Beyond Twisted premieres on WNYW New York at midnight, KTTV Los Angeles at 7 p.m., KDFW Dallas at 11 p.m., KRIV Houston at 6 p.m., WJBK Detroit at midnight, KSAZ Phoenix at 11:30 p.m., and KMSP Minneapolis-St. Paul at 6 p.m.