NEW ORLEANS — Gavel may be the word on the floor, but gab has been no slouch either, as several veterans — some given up for dead — completed deals to set the stage for the fall skeds.
Rough starts for freshmen and sophomore gabbers the past two seasons have failed to put away Telepictures’ “Queen Latifah,” Twentieth’s “Forgive or Forget” and Columbia TriStar’s “Donny and Marie,” which now seem poised to return next season. Meanwhile, the longtime veterans secured their own renewals as well.
Amid speculation that “Queen Latifah” would not survive its first year, the company has now declared the talker a firm go for season two as the Fox O&Os joined a slew of other stations — including Neal Sabin’s WCIU in Chicago — to clear 65% of the country in renewals.
“At a time when year-to-year gains are becoming a rare commodity, ‘Queen Latifah’ has performed extremely well on our O&Os, growing her time periods by double digits over the previous year,” Fox Stations exec Frank Cicha said.
Fox stations in both L.A. and Gotham have also decided to continue airing “Donny and Marie,” reupping for another year. Many analysts and insiders publicly doubted a third season would be in the works, but recent ratings spikes have helped the show fly .
“As virtually every other show is declining in ratings this year, we’ve managed to grow,” said Columbia’s Barry Thurston. “We’re going against the trend, and we’re now bullish on the show returning for a third year.”
A change of host helped “Forgive or Forget” survive a scare after nearly getting canceled last month. The exit of Mother Love and entry of Robin Givens caused the series to jump nearly a point. Now, Twentieth topper Rick Jacobson likes its chances.
“I was on the verge of pulling the plug before we were able to find Robin; she’s brought a new energy to the show,” he said. Jacobson said stations have also shown a renewed energy in negotiating for the series.
Meanwhile, longtime Studios USA pillars “Jerry Springer Show,” “Sally Jessy Raphael” and “Maury” have cleared 90% of the country for next season and 50% for the 2001-2002 season.
“Because it’s difficult for new shows to cut through the clutter … it seems awfully risky … to contemplate dropping an established series in favor of untested programs,” Studios USA’s Steve Rosenberg observed.