NEW YORK — The tales of woe recounted almost every day by dysfunctional families on talkshows hosted by Jerry Springer, Sally Jessy Raphael, Jenny Jones and Ricky Lake pale by comparison to the tragic on-air stories voiced regularly in the 1950s and ’60s on the granddaddy of all the maudlin weepers, “Queen for a Day.”
Guess what. Twentieth TV has bought the rights to “Queen for a Day” and has begun the process of retooling it for the late ’90s.
A Twentieth spokeswoman said the distributor has not yet decided which venue is appropriate for an updated “Queen.” (Network daytime, TV syndication or cable-network scheduling are the three options.) But Twentieth is clearly gearing up in case such revamped gameshows as King World’s “Hollywood Squares” and Pearson All American’s “Match Game,” both of which premiere in firstrun syndication next month, start finding a sizable audience.
Twentieth is also looking at the growing Nielsens for its 6-week-old “Forgive or Forget” syndicated hour, which features four people begging to be exonerated by friends or relatives they’ve wronged in the past. “Forgive,” hosted by Mother Love, has shot up 33% in the Nielsens since it premiered with a paltry 1.2 rating the week of June 8.
If a new “Queen for a Day” gets on the air, the executive producers will be Les Alexander, Dan Enright and Chuck Braverman, three veteran TV executives who — separately and together — have produced everything from Emmy-winning TV movies to variety and documentary specials to gameshows.
The original “Queen” began on network radio in 1945. Its format was simple: Four or five women from the studio audience went before a microphone, and one — usually the one with the most pathetic life story — was chosen by the applause of the audience and won prizes and merchandise.
The show became a cultural phenomenon. Its popularity held up, causing NBC to buy a TV version of the show for its daytime schedule in January 1956. The show shifted to ABC in September 1960 and ran through October 1964. An attempt to revive the show in firstrun syndication in 1970 didn’t pan out, and the syndie version lasted less than a year.