ABC ‘Runner’ won’t enter heat

Reality series placed on hold due to safety, audience concerns

HOLLYWOOD — “The Runner” won’t be coming out of the starting gate any time soon.

Citing concerns over the national mood, ABC has put the ambitious reality series from Live Planet on hold until next season at the earliest, the net announced Friday. Move confirms weeks of speculation that the show — from exec producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon — wouldn’t go on in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

After more than a year in development and at least two showrunners — including Michael Davies (“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”) — skein had evolved into a cross-country manhunt in which pre-selected “agents” tracked down a “runner.” While viewers would still play a part in the program, they wouldn’t “capture” the runner as had been originally intended.

Skein had been set to bow Jan. 7, airing Mondays at 9.

“We had to really face the music and realize that this is not an environment where it’s responsible to do this show,” ABC Entertainment Television Group co-chairman Lloyd Braun said.

Braun said it was unrealistic to “expect the country to get invested in a game of hide and seek” during a period of war abroad and at home. “There’s no one involved in the project that disagrees with the decision,” he said.

Security concerns

What’s more, security issues — always a concern with “The Runner” — have only heightened in recent weeks.

Almost immediately after Sept. 11, there was industry talk that “The Runner” would be delayed or dumped. But Braun said the network waited as long as possible before making the decision to put the show on hold.

“We were hoping against hope that circumstances would evolve to where we all settled into some sort of normalcy,” he said. “It appears that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.”

Still, Braun said ABC wasn’t giving up on “The Runner” entirely.

“It is our hope that circumstances will evolve in such a way that we’ll eventually be comfortable moving forward,” he said.

No word yet on what ABC will do with the 9 p.m. Monday slot come January. Net has several reality projects in the works that may fit the bill, including relationship-oriented “The Bachelor.”

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