NEW YORK – The Children’s Television Workshop is readying its most extensive development slate to date in a bid to expand from the pubcaster preschool market to more commercial, older-skewing fare.
Among the properties being nurtured by the producers of “Sesame Street” are three series in development at CBS as part of a broad first-look deal with the Eye web, which plans to scale back its Saturday-morning kidvid schedule this fall to three hours of FCC-friendly programming.
CTW also is plotting other series for the WB netlet, cable and syndication, all of which offer richer license fees and potentially wider exposure than PBS, home to longrunning “Sesame Street.”
“We decided to go for the 6-11 audience when we did ‘Cro’ at ABC three years ago and said, ‘Why just limit it to a PBS audience?’ ” said Dolores Morris, VP of program development, who believes CTW has maxed out the preschool market with “Sesame,” “3-2-1 Contact” and “Big Bag,” which debuted in June on the Cartoon Network.
In looking for more commercially viable entertainment shows aimed at older kids, CTW must walk a fine line by avoiding the “educational” label – a sure turnoff to that age group – while celebrating brains over brawn. “We can’t denigrate what we stand for” by turning to the violent action cartoons that are kidvid staples, Morris said.
Among the potential CBS projects are “Ghostwriter Mysteries,” a half-hour version of the hourlong live-action mystery show, earlier on PBS and now in syndication, that fosters literacy and deductive reasoning in a thrill-seeking format; “Problem 13,” an animated comedy series whose math-phobic protagonist finds math conundrums invading his everyday life; and “Jam Inn!” a live-action sketch comedy series featuring diverse musicians gathering at a hotel.
At least one of those series is guaranteed a spot on the Eye web’s fall lineup under terms of the programming pact, but each can be shopped elsewhere if the network passes; a firm decision will be made before next month’s kids upfront market.
Other CTW series in the works include:
* “The Batty and Crooky Show,” starring two of photographer William Wegman’s Weimaraner dogs as curious 11-year-old “twins” in a sitcom that explains how everyday objects work.
* “Backflip,” a weekly series that re-creates historical events in contemporary settings.
* “Rebels of Underland,” a cartoon adventure series being eyed by the WB about teenage “freedom fighters” who use nonviolent means to resist a regime at the Earth’s core.
* “MoJo,” a multicultural music adventure series; “No Sweat,” a magazine-style sports show for kiddie couch potatoes being shopped for syndication; “Live From Galaxis!”, a live-action science series about kids living on a space station; and “Flying Rhino,” which teaches kids, “Winky Dink”-style, how to draw cartoons.