MTM sets ‘Diner’ strip

MTM TV Distribution is seeking to become the only syndicator to successfully launch a firstrun sitcom strip.

The company Monday unveiled plans to market 65 episodes of “Boogie’s Diner” beginning in September 1994 — providing MTM with three firstrun strips (the others being the kids series “Xuxa” and gameshow “Trivial Pursuit”) and two off-net series (“Evening Shade” and “Rescue 911”) for next fall.

The announcement came at a New York press conference from the diner, a trendy food and clothing chain found in malls that would serve as the setting for the teen sitcom.

Stations would get four first-year runs of the all-barter series, which is targeted at the early fringe timeslots now occupied by off-net reruns of Rysher TPE’s “Saved By the Bell.”

The first-year production budget for the five-day-a-week series from Franklin/Waterman Entertainment and King St. Entertainment has been set at $ 22. 75 million, or $ 350,000 per episode.

Viacom was the last syndicator to try its hand at a firstrun sitcom strip, test-marketing a Fred Silverman-produced series called “Our Old School” on the Chris-Craft stations in summer 1991. That show never made it into national syndication, however.

The only other parallels would be the 1970s syndicated satiric latenight soap “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and MCA TV’s “My Talk Show,” which aired briefly a few years ago. But neither of those was considered a sitcom in the true sense.

Canadian flavor

MTM syndie president Chuck Larsen said “Boogie’s Diner” would be shot in Toronto. Because it’s cheaper to film in Canada, he noted that “most of the (production) money would endup on the screen.”

Larsen said the enhanced production values should make the show look more like a typical weekly network sitcom, which cost $ 500,000 to $ 600,000 per episode.

International push

To help recoup the production cost, there will also be a big push to sell the show internationally at next month’s National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab, according to Larsen.

MTM is familiar with the firstrun sitcom genre, having produced a firstrun revival of “WKRP in Cincinnati” until this season.

The syndicator was forced to cancel the series because “stations aren’t buying the once-a-week sitcoms anymore,” Larsen said.

But he emphasized “Boogie’s Diner” would fill a need for another teen sitcom that could serve as a transitional vehicle from animation fare to sitcoms.

Series burnout

With stations such as KTLA double-running “Saved By the Bell,” Larsen said broadcasters are rapidly burning up episodes of the successful off-net series.

“We looked at the market and there was nothing to take its place,” he said.

NBC has yet to decide whether it will continue production of the Saturday morning version of the series or the primetime “Saved By the Bell: The College Years” spinoff in 1994.

Mum on ‘Bell’

Rysher wouldn’t comment on whether the primetime episodes of “Bell” would be folded into the syndicated stockpile of daytime episodes.

The new MTM syndie series will star Jim J. Bullock, Richard Chevolleau, Jimmy Marsden, Monika Schnarre, Robin Stapler, Joy Tanner and Zack Ward. Gordon Farr and Wendy Grean are set to exec produce.

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