The Warner Bros. syndication sales force was busying knocking on the doors of TV station general managers last August, selling them on a new talkshow for this fall with singer Carnie Wilson.
And a number of other syndicators, fearful that WB would wrap up all the best time periods for “Carnie,” rushed into the station market to tout their new fall ’95 projects.
This August, however, top studio programmers seem more concerned about shows hitting the airwaves next month rather than the following September. Many have put development decisions on hold to attend last-minute run-throughs and tapings for their new talkshows. What changed?
“A lot of people are nervous,” said a development exec. “They don’t know what will happen with their shows (premiering in September) or whether there will be any time periods left next fall with all these strategic alliances and mega-mergers. And, to be honest, there’s a real lack of talent out there… There hasn’t been a (new breakaway hit) other than ‘Ricki Lake’ in years.”
Some syndicators and station execs suspect that there will be many more midseason launches in the coming season. If most new shows bomb, programmers don’t want to be caught off guard like last season and have nothing ready to go into the slots in January – especially when time periods are becoming more and more scarce.
To be fair, many syndicators no longer feel pressured to start selling their series early. Several major shows launching this fall were introduced at or shortly before January’s National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab.
The studio said to be closest to rolling out a new project is MCA TV, which has “He Said, She Said”- a talkshow with Los Angeles TV personalities Mark Thompson and Wendy Walsh – on the front burner.
Sources said MCA also has a pilot on hand from documentary maker Dave Bell, the exec producer of MGM’s upcoming “L.A.P.D.” strip, called “Justice.” Described as a “Cops”-meets-the-courtroom” reality series, the program travels to courthouses around the country and follows everything that goes on, including plea bargains.
Producer Stephen Chao, meanwhile, is back at work on a second or third pilot version of a talkshow for MCA with Laurie Pike, the former twentysomething KTTV entertainment reporter.
MCA was one of several big syndie companies, including Paramount and King World, that failed to introduce new firstrun fare for this fall. Sources said King World, which saw Ted Turner disappear this week as a potential buyer, is reducing its development staff, but a company spokesman noted it has a couple projects in the works for fall ‘ 96.
Par frequently has been rumored to be developing “HCTV,” the acidic Hollywood gossip-driven weekend version of “Hard Copy,” as a strip, but Par officials have denied it. Nothing else appears to be close to fruition. Among the projects said to be on the development plate of Columbia TriStar TV Distribution are new young skewing versions of three Chuck Barris properties: “The Newlywed Game,” “The Dating Game” and “The Gong Show.” All of them could be targeted toward late night, where reruns of “Love Connection” outperformed all newcomers last season.
WB has been putting most of its efforts into strengthening “Extra – The Entertainment Magazine” as it enters the second of its two-year deals. Its fortunes will likely rest on the outcome of the November book.
The joint venture planned by New World and NBC firmly targets “Extra” in fall 1996, with an access entertainment magazine strip to be helmed by former “Entertainment Tonight” exec producer Jim Van Messel.
Twentieth TV already has announced it is developing a magazine-oriented show around attorney Leslie Abramson. The Fox syndie wing is in the process of formulating several show concepts for her.
Disney’s Buena Vista TV has been rumored to be working on several development projects, including one with Linda Richman (the mother-in-law of Mike Meyers, who was the inspiration for his “Saturday Night Live” bit), but none have yet gone to pilot.
BVTV could be among those looking at midseason launches for “Marilyn Kagan” from Disney-owned KCAL.
As previously reported, Group W Prods, is preparing for a slow rollout of “Paget Brewster, ” another Generation X talker that has been tested in latenight on the company’s San Francisco station, KPIX.