Extra,” the new six-days-a-week syndie show from Time Telepictures TV and Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution, debuted Monday night with a production so slick it nearly slid off the screen. Will it succeed? Well, after four weeks of test runthroughs following a year in preparation, and with WB targeting more than $ 40 million for the show in its first year, it has to.
However, it will have to find more originality to last, as the show is a virtual clone of “Entertainment Tonight,” offering fast-paced showbiz fluff.
At this point, “Extra’s” sole distinction is some cheekiness displayed in its opening moments. After introducing themselves, co-hosts Arthel Neville and Dave Nemeth acknowledged 14-year-old “ET,” saying “Extra” is “a companion and extension of that series”– a statement of camaraderie that may have surprised a few execs at Paramount and “ET.”
But then Nemeth concluded that “we intend to serve the next generation of viewers as well as ‘Entertainment Tonight’ has served its loyal fans.” In other words, step aside, “ET,” we’ll take over from here.
Neville promised, “One of the things we’re going to do for you here at ‘Extra’ is find unique entertainment stories.” Uh-huh. The opening half-hour featured profiles of Oprah Winfrey, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Alexander, three not-exactly publicity-shy celebs.
In an “exclusive” interview, Winfrey made the candid revelation “I feel really good” about the new TV season; Dana Kennedy, a reporter from Time Warner’s Entertainment Weekly (ah, synergy at work!) spilled the dirt that when she met Winfrey, “there were no airs about her.”
Neville promised, “When I visited Sly on the set (of ‘The Specialist’), he showed me a whole different side of himself.” Stallone shockingly revealed that he’s in a good mood these days and then put on his sunglasses upside down.
Show deserves congrats for not mentioning O.J. even once, but faint doubts were raised about its finding “unique entertainment stories” with promos for Tuesday’s “exclusive” on homes Lady Di is thinking of buying.
Admittedly, Labor Day is hardly a hotbed of showbiz activity, and the test for “Extra” will come when there is breaking news to cover.
However, the opening episode contained nothing timely except for two short segs that will presumably be regular features: “Celebrity Traffic,” reporting on celeb appearances (e.g., Susan Lucci at a horse show), and “Preview,” a look at upcoming events ( such as a plot recap of that night’s “Blossom” episode).
The content may be lacking, but the show is sleek: an MTV-style seg on Stallone’s “Judge Dredd” mixed B&W and color film with videotape.
Neville and Nemeth seemed a little overeager, but they’re pleasant enough. Nemeth stepped in just three weeks ago to replace Ben Patrick Johnson, who had been tapped as co-host despite his lack of on-camera experience.
Johnson, it was then announced, would become a correspondent for the show, but he was nowhere to be seen Monday: perhaps he had his 15 minutes of fame, but they were all off-camera.
“ET” took a long time to hit its stride. “Extra” starts off with clearances in 90% of the country, so we’ll see if the sales and creative teams can keep the show going. “Extra” is more of a carbon copy of “ET” than a “companion,” but it’s questionable if this town is big enough for the both of them.