Sony sees ‘Girls’ in syndie

Studio breathes life into Oxygen skein

NEW YORK — Sony Pictures TV has bought syndication rights to “Girls Behaving Badly,” the long-running Oxygen Media series featuring four young women who play pranks on unsuspecting people in “Candid Camera”-like fashion.

“I refer to the series as a combination of ‘Sex and the City’ and MTV’s ‘Punk’d,’ ” said John Weiser, distribution prexy for Sony Pictures TV.

Sony is offering 71 half-hour episodes of the series to stations for next fall. Weiser said his pitch is that standard sitcoms are losing audiences on broadcast TV while offbeat cable comedies such as “The Real Gilligan’s Island” on TBS and “The Chappelle Show” on Comedy Central are chalking up big ratings and creating buzz.

In the wake of the recent crackdown on program content by the FCC, Weiser said Sony’s standards-and-practices people will go over each of the “Badly” episodes for anything that might cross the line into salaciousness.

Sony will scrub the show of anything naughty because Weiser wants stations to be able to play it anywhere on their schedules, not just in latenight. Oxygen plays the episodes both at 10:30 p.m. and on weekend afternoons.

Holding off on deals

None of the firstrun pilots making the rounds of TV stations have landed any station deals as of yet, Weiser said, although a number of existing series are not likely to be back for the 2005-06 season, giving “Badly” a shot at full clearance.

Stations that agree to take “Badly” won’t have to pay a license fee to Sony. Instead, they’ll set aside 3½ minutes within each half-hour for Sony to sell to national advertisers.

The stars of “Badly” are Chelsea Handler, Melissa Howard, Shondrella Avery and Kira Soltanovich. Creator-exec producers are Barry Poznick and John Stevens.

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