Par’s ‘Howie,’ ‘Hard Copy’ call it quits

Tabmag runs into newsmag competish

The fade-out is near for two syndie skeins in the Paramount stable, “The Howie Mandel Show” and “Hard Copy.”

The decision to call it quits on both strips had been expected, (Daily Variety, March 19, April 21).

The hour-long “Howie Mandel” talk-variety vehicle faced an uphill climb in the Nielsen charts since its bow last June. Production of original segs ended last month; reruns will air through the end of June.

“It’s been a head-scratcher for us,” said Frank Kelly, who heads Paramount domestic TV along with division co-president Joel Berman. “Howie is a guy who is clearly talented, and the producers did a great job. Everything was there, but the audience didn’t show up in the numbers that we needed to make it another year.”

“Hard Copy,” on the other hand, has been a Par staple since 1989. But the syndie tabmag’s ratings have been sliding for the past few seasons, and a major editorial and aesthetic revamp of the show this season failed to spark a turnaround. “Hard Copy” will stay in production through the summer, with the last segs to air in mid-September.

The half-hour tabmag hit its peak in the mid-1990s with enterprising coverage of such fodder as the Amy Fisher/Joey Buttafuoco case, the travails of Michael Jackson, the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding rivalry and, of course, the O.J. Simpson saga.

But more recently, “Hard Copy” and other daily syndie newsmags have faced increased competition from the proliferation of network newsmags. And many local newscasts are devoting more time to the splashier scandals that were once the province of syndie shows like “Hard Copy” and “A Current Affair,” which was yanked in 1996.

On top of “Howie Mandel” and “Hard Copy,” Par also is saying good-bye, by choice, at the end of this season to its syndie drama “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” after a seven-year run.

But Par will nonetheless remain a titan in firstrun syndication with stalwarts like “Entertainment Tonight” and “Montel Williams.” Also, the studio is poised to inherit the hottest strip in syndication, “Judge Judy,” plus two more courtshow strips through its pending acquisitions of Worldvision Enterprises and Rysher Entertainment.

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