Under its new partnership with Scripps Howard, NBC Enterprises is revamping its weekly half-hour program Rebecca's Garden. Scripps Howard took over production when previous partner Hearst Entertainment ceased production activities last June.
NBC and Scripps Howard plan to expand Rebecca's Garden, hosted by Rebecca Kolls, into a lifestyle program with less emphasis on gardening. Such shows as TLC's Trading Spaces and Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have shown that "there's a tremendous appetite for this kind of programming," says Marla Drutz, Scripps Howard's head of programming. And Martha Stewart's alleged involvement in the ImClone stock scandal has made her talk show vulnerable to competition.
"We felt like we had a pretty strong vision for the show," Drutz says, "and that includes expanding the focus of the program to an emphasis on home, crafts, food and entertaining."
Scripps Howard's first step toward shaking things up was to build a set for the show at the company's WXYZ-TV Detroit. Rebecca's Garden
previously had been shot entirely in the field. "In the show's previous seasons, one of the things it lacked was continuity," Drutz says. "They had a tendency to produce segments, not shows, and they never had a home base."
NBC and Scripps are considering changing the show's name to reflect the new format, although that change would come later.
Drutz hopes to be able to call on some of NBC's stars to appear in celebrity segments, perhaps featuring a tour of Jane Pauley's home, for example.
If viewers are responsive to the new format, NBC may expand it to a strip as early as 2004. Scripps Howard owns cable channels HGTV, Food Network and Fine Living, all of which could become a cable home for the show. Episodes have run on HGTV, and Kolls has hosted programs on the net.
Rebecca's Garden, cleared on 175 stations, with a 1.1 rating was the No. 77-rated show in syndication during the week ended Sept. 14, the last week for which national syndication ratings are available.