The fall season is just under way, but syndicators are already placing their bets for 2005 and beyond, gambling big money on fashion and style gurus. Noted designers Isaac Mizrahi and Vera Wang have secured development deals. With Martha Stewart facing jail time and the lifestyle genre hotter than ever, syndicators are scrambling to fill Stewart's Manolo Blahnik shoes. They hope to capitalize on a trend made popular—and lucrative—by Extreme Makeover and Queer Eye.
Mizrahi has already shot a pilot for NBC Universal. In one segment, he goes into a local Department of Motor Vehicles and makes people over before they get their new driver's license photo taken. Wang, best known for designing to-die-for wedding gowns, has inked a talent deal with Buena Vista Productions, a company rep confirms. Her show will likely be syndicated, but Buena Vista says it could also appear on network or cable.
Also in the lifestyle arena, Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions is rumored to be considering a show with designer Nate Berkus and Trading Spaces host Paige Davis. Harpo isn't confirming, but insiders say such a show is more likely for 2006. Harpo hit on a winning strategy when it spun off Dr. Phil in 2002. Berkus drives up Oprah's already sky-high ratings every time he appears, making him a good pick to duplicate the Dr. Phil success.
Separately, financial guru Suze Orman is finalizing a deal with Twentieth Television, and Mario Lopez is in production on a revival of Real People for Tribune Entertainment. Lopez is a syndication vet, appearing on NBC's The Other Half for two years. This would be Orman's first venture into syndication, although she's not new to TV, having appeared in her own live-to-TV radio show since 2002 on CNBC and some PBS affiliates.
Another program in the works for fall 2005 is a talk show starring comedian Mo'Nique, of Girlfriends fame. That started out as a Paramount project but has been taken over by Warner Bros./Telepictures. Steve Harvey is also developing a daytime talk show with Telepictures.
Other names floated include Brooke Shields and Michael Bolton, though no studios have bitten yet. Tom Arnold may do a show with Tribune, but the company won't confirm.
Since slots are expected to be sparse next year, development remains fiercely competitive.