Legal theatrics make way for matting mechanics

Daily talkers dominate syndie season crop

It seems as if syndicators left their gavels behind in developing for this season: Variety abounds among the four new hourlong strips and six new half-hours, none of which is set in a courtroom.

The lineup starkly contrasts with last season’s showing, when six returning gavelers were met by five new courtshows.

“The sense was during development season for this fall that court was going as far as it would for the time being,” says station rep Garnett Losak, VP and director of programming for Petry Media Corp.

One court show, “Texas Justice” from Twentieth Television, is slated for a wide national rollout in January, but will be seen in several markets next week.

Like last season, four new 60-minute Monday-Friday shows are being introduced, and the studios behind them are hoping for a better success rate than last year’s: None of the four hours that debuted last fall is returning.

The new hours are:

  • Buena Vista’s “Iyanla,” hosted by author-lecturer-attorney and first-time talkshow host Iyanla Vanzant;

  • King World Prods.’ “The Ananda Lewis Show,” hosted by twentysomething former BET and MTV host Ananda Lewis;

  • NBC’s all-male ensemble talker “The Other Half”;

  • Tribune Entertainment’s “Talk or Walk,” during which couples decide whether to work out or walk away from their relationship. Relationship expert Michael Baisden hosts.

While “Iyanla” and “Ananda Lewis” are single-topic talkers with women hosts bearing unusual names, their producers insist the shows’ similarities end there.

“Iyanla,” from “The View” producers Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie, will focus on issues pertaining to auds’ day-to-day lives.

“Ananda Lewis” will take on hot-button issues, cultural trends and newsmakers. Mary Duffy, whose credits include “The Montel Williams Show,” is senior exec producer and Jose Pretlow, whose background includes “Leeza” and “Vibe,” is exec producer.

“The Other Half” marks the inaugural project from NBC’s new syndie division. The tagline for the show, starring Dick Clark, Danny Bonaduce, Dr. Jan Adams and Mario Lopez, is “The world of women through the eyes of men.”

“Are we optimistic? Yes. Are we cautiously optimistic? Absolutely,” says NBC Enterprises prexy Ed Wilson. “We’re putting something on the air that we can be proud of. We don’t know for sure that it will work, but we know we won’t be embarrassed by it.”

“We really have put our best foot forward with this,” says Linda Finnell, NBC Enterprises senior veep of development.

Four of the six new half-hour strips fall into the relationship genre, joining “Blind Date,” going into its third season, and “Change of Heart,” which is going out on its fourth run.

The newbies are: Paramount Domestic TV’s “Rendez-View” and Universal Worldwide Television’s “The Fifth Wheel,” which are produced by the team behind Universal’s “Blind Date”; “Elimidate,” from “Change of Heart’s” home Telepictures; and Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “ShipMates.”

During each episode of “Rendez-View,” hosts comedian Greg Proops and relationship expert Ellen Ladowsky will be joined by two guest celebs as they dissect a date.

“Fifth Wheel,” hosted by Aisha Tyler, sends two guys and two girls on a date in a limo — then introduces a fifth person halfway through to mix up the dynamic. In “Elimidate,” four suitors will compete simultaneously for the affection of a man or woman.

Former host of MTV’s “Singled Out” Chris Hardwick hosts “ShipMates,” which sets up singles on a three-day date aboard a Carnival cruise ship.

The two nonrelationship half-hour strips debuting are “Crossing Over With John Edward” and FremantleMedia’s “Card Sharks.”

Featuring psychic medium Edward, “Crossing Over” will share a dual distribution window in syndication with cable net Sci Fi Channel, which preemed the show in July 2000.

“Sharks,” hosted by Pat Bullard, is the third classic game revival in as many seasons to come from FremantleMedia (formerly Pearson Television). Last year’s “To Tell the Truth” and the previous season’s “Family Feud” return to syndication this season.

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