Katz scratches biggies

Warner Bros. TV, MCA TV, Buena Vista TV and Group W Prods., already struggling through one of the most difficult pre-NATPE selling seasons, have crashed into another barrier: Katz TV is not recommending their high-visibility new syndicated strips for 1994-95.

Specifically, Warners’ “Entertainment News Television,” MCA’s “The Suzanne Somers Show” and “Last Call,” Buena Vista’s “Judge & Jury” and Group W’s “Jones & Jury” get no endorsement in Katz’s analysis of all of the new series, the rep firm’s annual taped report that it sends to its 202 TV-station clients for study on the eve of the NATPE convention.

The confab, devoted to buying and selling syndie fare, runs Jan. 25-28 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

In the number of TV stations it serves, Katz is by far the biggest rep firm, so a Katz brushoff could mean the difference between a go or a no-go for a new syndicated series.

Katz doesn’t spell out the reasons why it’s rejecting these series because, said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for the Katz TV Group, “our policy is not to mention in our presentation any shows that we’re not recommending.” But referring to the most expensive of the newcomers, Warners’ “ENT,” he goes on to say that the lack of a pilot was a key factor in Katz’s decision. “Even though a pilot may not be totally representative of what the show’s content will be,” Carroll says, “at least it gives you a flavor. Warners is not giving us anything tangible to help us decide about the program.”

The two new five-a-weekers that Katz does recommend to its stations for next fall are Multimedia’s “The Susan Powter Show” and Twemtieth TV’s “The Gordon Elliott Show.”

The Powter half-hour talkshow, featuring the high-powered host of the “stop-the-insanity” infomercials, could be particularly useful to affiliates of ABC and NBC, the two networks that have given daytime slots back to their stations for programming with syndicated series, says Carroll.

Calling Powter “one of the hottest personalities on TV,” John von Soosten, a Katz programming VP, says stations that buy the show have “a chance to capture lightning in a bottle.”

Gordon Elliott “brings years of on-camera experience” to his new hourlong talkshow, says Carroll, which could be “the alternative to more serious talk to be paired with programs like ‘Regis & Kathie Lee’ in morning time periods.”

For one other new strip, Paramount TV’s syndication version of “The Price Is Right,” Katz’s programming VP Ruth Lee advises her affiliated station clients not to buy it for the “access” time periods between 6:30 and 8 p.m. It could work in early fringe, i.e., between 4 and 6 p.m., Lee continues, but only if the station strips “a weak talkshow” that needs replacing.

Von Soosten, who focuses on Katz’s indie-station clients, is recommending the following firstrun drama hours to the indies: All American TV’s “Sirens,” Columbia TV’s “Forever Knight,” the two Worldvision shows “Robin’s Hoods” and “Heaven Help Us” and two Rysher/TPE shows, “Robocop” and”Thunder in Paradise.”

Only stations that do well with westerns such as “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke,” von Soosten says, should take a chance on Rysher/TPE new 60-minute “Lonesome Dove: The Series.”

Other shows on von Soosten’s recommended list for indies and Fox affiliates are All American’s hourlong athletic competition weekly “Beachquest,” the teen-oriented “Boogie’s Diner” half-hour strip from MTM, the weekly “Sweet Valley High” half-hours from Saban based on the novels for young people, Columbia Pictures TV’s “The Newz” satirical half-hour latenight strip, and reruns of “Top Cops” from Genesis Entertainment and of “In the Heat of the Night” from MGM.

Worldvision is offering reruns of “Beverly Hills, 90210” as a five-a-weeker but von Soosten is telling his stations to buy it only for a weekly timeslot, either in weekend early fringe or in a primetime checkerboard.

Stepping back from his comments on individual shows, Carroll is telling his stations, particularly network affiliates, not to buy new series like “The Price Is Right” as a replacement for access magazines that may be suffering from advertiser resistance because of their “sensational” content. Most of these magazines “are still delivering strong, saleable demos” whereas untried new strips are always a risk.

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