TV Land will ‘Fool’ with reality plans

'Pity,' 'Grind' fit cabler to a T

TV Land has greenlit “I Pity the Fool,” a reality show starring Mr. T as a Dr. Phil-style help guru, and “Back to the Grind,” featuring TV actors like Erik Estrada and Loni Anderson as they try to tackle the jobs their characters performed on TV.

Network will announce those, as well as several new series and specials, during its portion of MTV Networks’ upfront presentation to advertisers today in New York.

Among those are renewals for “Sit Down With David Steinberg” and a four-part look at the baby boomer generation, “Boomer Knows Best.”

Meanwhile, Keith Cox, head of comedy/alternative at the WB, is about to join the Nick at Nite/TV Land ranks as exec VP of programming. It’s unclear whether he will report to NAN/TVL president Larry Jones or Doug Herzog, who recently was given jurisdiction over TV Land in addition to cablers Spike TV and Comedy Central. (Jones’ Nick at Nite falls under Viacom’s Kids and Family Group run by Cyma Zarghami).

In “I Pity the Fool,” Mr. T will help everyday folks from car salesmen who need to meet quotas, to parents who need chaperones for their daughters. Cabler has ordered six episodes from Lionsgate TV, which will produce in association with Left/Right Films and Remag Guerrilla. Half-hour premieres in October.

Nick at Nite/TV Land senior VP Sal Maniaci said more so than previous Nick at Nite reality effort “Chasing Farrah,” “I Pity the Fool” will strike a balance between heartwarming and funny.

“He really gets in there and does some good, dolling out advice T-style,” said Maniaci, who added that the cabler will likely run marathons of “The A-Team” around the premiere.

Also bowing on TV Land in the fall is “Back to the Grind.” Pilot centers on “CHiPS” star Estrada attempting to be a highway patrolman, while Anderson works as a secretary for ratio stations as her character did in “WKPR in Cincinnati.” Michael Levitt and Eugene Pack exec produce.

TV Land turned in a good first quarter, up 9% in the key 25-54 demographic during primetime (and up 16% with viewers overall). Net entered the original programming arena in late 2003 and more recently announced first-time development of scripted series (Daily Variety, Sept. 19).

As a testament to its commitment to originals, cabler is bringing back “TV Land Confidential” for six episodes in September and talker “David Steinberg,” also for six. Maniaci credits the quality of the ratings-challenged “Steinberg” for the show’s renewal.

“It’s a good series that critics really loved,” he said.

There’s no word on how these episodes will differ from the original set.

TV Land has also ordered up a slew of new specials for fourth quarter including “Boomer Knows Best,” from World of Wonder; “Urban Myths and Legends,” a one-hour that hopes to debunk myths from the TV and pop culture landscape; “100 Most Memorable Catchphrases”; and “TV Land Top 10.”

Joining the lineup this summer as previously reported is Scott Sternberg’s “My First Time,” a six-part biography series that looks back on the first big breaks of personalities such as Henry Winkler, Sarah Gilbert, Ted Danson, John O’Hurley, Glen Campbell, Katey Sagal, Cheryl Ladd and Jim Belushi. TV Land ordered the series last fall (Daily Variety, Oct. 27) and will premiere it June 28.

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