Ray cooks up King World talker while NBC U hopes there's no fall from 'Grace'
As recipes for syndie launches go, you could say King World is bringing its programming lineup up to a full boil with a new daytime talker hosted Food Network luminary Rachael Ray.“It’s a complete ramp-up — new studio, complete staff, state-of-the-art equipment, and the set is just incredible,” notes Terry Wood, president of development and creative affairs for King World and CBS Paramount Domestic TV. “We’ve put an awful lot into this production.” If anyone should feel confident about spending a lot of money to launch a new strip into one of TV’s most impenetrable dayparts, it’s Wood. She’s riding a nice winning streak, having spearheaded the launches of “Dr. Phil” and “The Insider” in recent years. Still, even more inspiring is the fact that, like Dr. Phil McGraw, Ray was chosen and groomed by none other than Oprah Winfrey herself — the daytime queen will even appear on “Ray” during the first week on the air. As it did for “Dr. Phil” back in 2002, Winfrey’s Harpo Prods. formed the blueprint for “Rachael Ray,” an hourlong talkshow that will have its epicurean hosts broaden her acumen to such topics as relationships and travel. “Pedigree, both behind the camera and in front of it, is a big reason why it’s gotten the time periods it has,” notes Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for station rep firm Katz Television. Those time periods include a choice 10 a.m. slot on WABC-TV in New York, running between “Live With Regis and Kelly” and “The View,” as well as a 9 a.m. slot on Los Angeles’ KCBS-TV. In many other markets, it will bow at 3 p.m. and lead into “Oprah.” Also premiering Sept. 18 will be “Megan Mullally Show,” NBC Universal’s attempt to transition a popular primetime comedy thesp on “Will & Grace” into celeb-driven variety show in daytime. “We won’t have her behind a desk, and I don’t see Megan doing a lot of cooking, unless she opens an oven and (‘Will & Grace’ co-star) Sean Hayes is hiding inside,” quips the strip’s exec producer, Corin Nelson, who notably helped transition another comedic thesp, Rosie O’Donnell, into syndie daytime a decade ago. “Megan Mullally” will run on NBC owned-and-operated stations in the bigger markets, where it will lead into Warner Bros.’ successful “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” “‘Megan Mullally’ faces the same issue that any variety show faces — that it’s pretty difficult to do a variety talkshow in daytime,” Carroll notes. “But ‘Ellen’ proved it can be done.” Likewise, “Dr. Phil” proved that a male host dispensing self-help advice to a largely female aud could work, and several other syndicators are similarly inspired. On Sept. 11, Warners will bow “The Dr. Keith Ablow Show,” as Ablow is a psychiatrist and the prolific author of such bestsellers as “Inside the Mind of Scott Peterson.” The strip will run on Fox stations in the bigger markets. For its part, Sony will approach the genre with a slightly lighter touch, building an advice show around comedian Greg Behrendt, co-author of bestselling relationship self-helpers including “He’s Just Not Into You.” “The Greg Behrendt Show” premieres Sept. 12 on all 26 Tribune stations, among other outlets. Meanwhile, a year after adding even more programming to the well-worn court genre with “Judge Alex,” Twentieth found another Latino litigator to throw into syndie daytime — Cristina Perez, who previously hosted “La corte de familia” on Telemundo. “Cristina’s Court” will be joined this fall by Sony’s “Judge Maria Lopez” and, as both will premiere Sept. 11, their additions will swell the ranks of half-hour court strips back to more than a dozen. Several off-net dramas launch into weekly broadcast syndication, too. Mostly, the King World-distributed “CSI: Miami” will replace its prolific parent series in the realm. In September, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” — which was one of the most successful weekly syndie dramas ever — will end its two-year syndie run, its reruns once again running exclusively on cable. “CSI: Miami,” meanwhile, will begin its two-year weekly syndie cycle while being simultaneously stripped on A&E. Sony’s “The Shield” also enters weekly syndication with some juice — airing on all 26 Tribune stations, the cop drama enjoys lots of awareness, Carroll notes, but it’s had limited exposure, since its originals run on cable’s FX. Additionally, CBS drama “Without a Trace” will bow in syndication, primarily on CBS stations. Several half-hour comedies also bow, including “Scrubs” and “According to Jim” from Buena Vista Television, “Still Standing” from Twentieth and “One on One” from Par.