Syndication's fall season was supposed to start with four new weekly half-hours, a dying breed in this age of consolidation and 500 channels. As September nears, though, only Telco Productions' Missing
remains in the mix.
Hearst Entertainment had planned to launch FCC-friendly CosmoGirl!
but never got the show off the ground. WorldLink, Mansfield Television Distribution and WENA Productions got America's Moving To…
cleared in 30-some markets but ultimately couldn't get enough traction for the show. Zoom Culture, which had planned to launch Playground Earth, went out of business.
Missing, however, has been cleared on nearly 200 TV stations from major network affiliates to small independents covering 85% of the country and will launch on Sept. 1, according to Alex Paen, president of Telco Productions. The show focuses on 10 to 12 missing-persons cases per half-hour episode with the help of the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Big cases getting a lot of publicity—such as Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart or Chandra Levy—won't be Missing's priority, Paen says. "We see this show as a public service and a way to help families. I always thought that television as a visual medium could do much more than milk cartons and flyers to help find people."
The company also produces Animal Rescue, which enters its seventh season this fall.
Missing will offer stations as many as five inserts a week for newscasts or interstitials. Stations can use their own news personality or general manager in the inserts to localize the shows further, according to Paen.
Celebrities will appear on the show each week, offering public-service announcements. The first show features Paul Reiser, who knows Bill Grundfest, Paen's producing partner on Missing, from their days together on Reiser's Mad About You, which Grundfest wrote and produced.
Telco doesn't charge stations license fees for its shows and gives them 31/2 minutes of barter time. Tribune sells Telco's barter time and gets a cut of Telco's remaining 31/2 minutes.
Missing also will have national sponsors, including an insurance company and a security company, although Telco wasn't ready to announce the companies' names.