‘Ricki,’ ‘You’ join talk war

At least two new firstrun shows aimed at teens and young adults will be vying for early fringe slots next fall.

Ricki Lake has entered the fray,with Columbia Pictures Television Distribution announcing yesterday that it will distribute a one-hour talkshow strip hosted by the TV and film actress.

And sources say Group W Prods. and Castle Rock Entertainment have teamed for “You Are Here,” a half-hour entry hosted by Soleil Moon Frye (“Punky Brewster”), Mario Lopez (NBC’s “Saved By the Bell”) and Jordan Brady (NBC’s “Name Your Adventure”).

The Group W program, which has been quietly pitched to stations in recent weeks, will be exec produced by Al Burton, whose credits include such teen-appeal sitcoms as “Silver Spoons” and “Charles in Charge.”

Like “Ricki”–not to be confused with Group W’s “Vicki!”–“You Are Here” will target teens as well as the 18-34 and 18-49 audience.

Long in discussion (Daily Variety, Aug. 14), “Ricki” is the follow-up to a three-month test held earlier this year on Fox-owned WNYW-TV, New York, using Sassy magazine editor Jane Pratt as the host.

While that program took some flak for the nature of its topics– very young and, in most cases, very explicit–the show’s producers found there was an appetite for a younger-skewing talkshow (it achieved strong demos in the key age groups).

Former Fox Broadcasting Co. programming chief Garth Ancier, who developed and later parted company with the Pratt project, is also the creator and executive producer of “Ricki.”

A majority of the Pratt production team has been retained for the Lake program, per Ancier.

“It’s a program with a proven format, slanted toward a young adult audience,” said Ed Wilson, senior VP of sales at CPTD, at a New York press conference yesterday. Despite a large field of competitors, CPTD exex asserted that a young-leaning talkshow can be successful as a counter-programming tool.

CPTD chose the Lake project because it wanted to “make a quick impact,” said Alan Perris, the distrib’s senior VP of firstrun programming.

“We believe (talk) is not as full as everybody thinks it is,” he said.

The show represents the company’s first major undertaking since the firstrun unit was formed a few months ago. Over the summer, CPTD got its feet wet in the talk genre with CBS Television Stations’ “Cristina,” but that program didn’t fly.

Three other major distribs are out with talkshows for next fall, but Twentieth TV (“Bertice Berry”) and King World Prods. (“Les Brown”) are targeting their entries toward daytime slots.

Paramount, meanwhile, is in the final stages of discussions with NBC concerning a daytime network berth for its new Leeza Gibbons/John Tesh program.

CPTD officials reason that with more indies shifting from an off-network look to a “live local look,” there is more room created for a show like “Ricki.” Moreover, the return of an hour of daytime to CBS affiliates next summer also creates more opportunities.

Ancier started working on the Lake talkshow this summer with the cooperation of those at WWOR-TV.

When the WNYW telecasts ended, WWOR executives contacted Ancier, saying there was a future for this type of program.

After interviewing everyone from models to magazine editors, the producers settled on Lake and the presentation tapes were shot at the Chris-Craft/United-owned TV station’s New Jersey studios in August.

Although no deals have been concluded, WWOR is considered a likely candidate for the show. It is unknown whether the clearances would extend to other Chris-Craft stations such as KCOP in L.A.

The show will be produced on a 39-week schedule in New York. Roughly half of the episodes will be devoted to relationships, but the usual talkshow topics will also be addressed.

CPTD is selling 52 weeks of the series on a cash-plus-barter basis. Like the other talkers, the distrib will retain three minutes of national advertising time.

Wilson expects the program, produced by the Garth Ancier Co. in association with CPTD, to play best at 5 p.m., on either independents (which capture a large chunk of the 18-34 audience in the daypart) or affiliates.

In its pitches, Group W is reportedly emphasizing the short attention spans of the audience and the advantage of a fast-paced 30-minute program.

Both of the new shows could face some tough competition vying for slots against off-net sitcoms, which usually occupy the 5-8 p.m. sked on indies.

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