Synditel: So long for now

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Say goodbye, at least for a year, to Synditel, the portion of the annual TV critics tour that gave studios a chance to show off their new fall syndicated series. Problem was, critics felt there was more tell than show.

Almost unanimously, members of the Television Critics Association voted to suspend the event, blaming the numerous talent no-shows (most notably Dr. Laura Schlessinger) at this year's July 7 event. Schlessinger, slated to star in Paramount-distributed Dr. Laura, was scheduled for Synditel until several weeks ago, when Paramount canceled her session citing a scheduling conflict.

The Cindy Margolis Show meet-and-greet had to be scrapped at the 11th hour. And MGM's Sex Wars (on board with Synditel for a while) was a no-go as well.

All the missing celebrities had their reasons/excuses: Schlessinger had a charity event in San Diego, for example, and Margolis was taping and missed the last flight out (she was rescheduled for an appearance later). But the critics weren't appeased.

"I thought we were taken for granted. It's like we weren't important in the [syndicators'] decision process," said Contra Costa Times TCA member Chuck Barney, who voted to suspend Synditel. "Those people had been on the schedule for a long, long time."

Oakland Tribune's Susan Young pointed out, "[Many critics] came to see Dr. Laura specifically. It's expensive for us to come, so we need the people who are promised to us." Young, who is in favor of the suspension, was angered by Paramount's replacement of Dr. Laura with the lower-profile Queen of Swords.

TCA members will meet at this time next year to decide whether to give Synditel another shot in 2002.