Niche nets on recall wagon

Cablers cash in on 'craziness' of California's election

Corrections were made to this article on Oct. 1, 2003.

All-news nets aren’t the only cablers riding the recall roller coaster.

The Game Show Network, VH1, Comedy Central and Tech TV have entered the electoral circus, slating original recall-related programming through California’s Oct. 7 election.

GSN, the first net to announce its intentions to run an election special, will air the alternative to last week’s gubernatorial debate, “Who Wants to be Governor of California: The Debating Game,” today.

Arianna and Arnold were MIA last week, when the spesh was taped, but six other candidates — including former child actor Gary Coleman and porn star Mary “Mary Carey” Cook — duked it out.

Sample question: Name five California baseball teams.

“(The election) is a gameshow,” net prexy Rich Cronin said. “Everyone around the country is joking about it. Needless to say, this debate is very tongue-in-cheek. The show highlights all the wacky things that non-Californians already think about this state.”

But for the most part, execs and producers at the niche nets have banded together in the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

VH1 had the good fortune to have a Schwarzenegger special in the hopper when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision to postpone the vote until March.

“We put it into production right after he announced he was running,” exec VP of production and programming Michael Hirschorn said.

The “Total Recall” edition of the music net’s “Fabulous Life” series reveals the would-be governor’s estimated worth ($800 million) and details his holdings in private companies including Microsoft and Starbucks (valued at more than $20 million.) Show airs tonight at 11 p.m.

Rich Korson, exec in charge of production of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” said their election project was under way the minute the “T3” star threw his hat in the ring.

Stewart’s latenight operation will travel, via the magic of green screen, to California for “The California Recall: Re-Decision 2003,” which will broadcast live for both coasts on Election Day. Plans for the program include stationing cameras in Schwarzenegger’s Austrian hometown for overseas reaction.

Then there’s San Francisco-based Tech TV, which will re-air “State of Confusion,” an “Unscrewed” special profiling several long-shot candidates on Monday.

“There is an element of craziness to this recall election that is rich with opportunity to have fun,” senior VP of programming Greg Brannan said. “Of course, there are issues that a Tech TV audience would be interested in as far as downloading music and piracy, but really, this is unprecedented news that’s being watched by the nation.”

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