‘Bonnie,’ ‘Doctors’ battle big daytimers

New syndicated series face tough competition

Talkshows starring actress-comedian Bonnie Hunt and a team of advice-giving MDs, as well as a couple of new gameshows, highlight this fall’s firstrun syndie launches.

But as if the morning and midday time periods weren’t difficult enough to compete in, “The Bonnie Hunt Show” and “The Doctors” — which both premiered Monday — will have to establish themselves quickly to ward off some serious contenders arriving in fall 2009.

“These are really the two shows that people are keeping their eye on to see where they go,” says Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Media.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic TV and exec produced by “Ellen DeGeneres Show” mastermind Jim Paratore, “Bonnie” is airing on NBC owned-and-operated stations in key markets, going head-to-head in L.A. against “Maury” and “The Tyra Banks Show,” and against courtshows and “Law & Order” reruns in New York. Competition is even more severe in other markets.

“The Doctors,” meanwhile, is a medical-advice-driven hourlong exec produced by “Dr.” Phil McGraw and his son Jay. It arrives via CBS TV Distribution and represents the last clearance work of late syndie guru Roger King, who locked the strip on CBS O&Os in key time periods for two years.

“The Doctors” will contend in New York directly against “Live With Regis and Kelly” and “Today” in the Big Apple, stiff competition any way you slice it.

By committing to “The Doctors,” CBS stations likely took themselves out of the running for — and will likely have to compete with — the latest Oprah Winfrey spinoff, “Dr. Oz,” which is being nurtured by Harpo Prods. and Sony Pictures TV for a fall 2009 launch.

Likewise, by locking in “Bonnie Hunt,” NBC stations will likely find themselves competing with another anticipated 2009 launch, a talkshow featuring Marie Osmond.

The Peacock stations have their hands full in the here and now, however, as they’re also launching a half-hour syndie version of “Deal or No Deal,” which will primarily run back-to-back in afternoon time periods.

The syndie version features the same host, Howie Mandel, while delivering a few format tweaks to speed up the pace. “The show looks pretty good — it moves right along,” Carroll notes.

Launching Sept. 22, “Trivial Pursuit: America Plays” is a board-game adaptation distributed by Debmar Mercury and hosted by the former Peter Brady, Christopher Knight.

Of course, no firstrun syndie launch season would be complete without new half-hour courtshows, and this year two bow: Program Partners’ “Family Court With Judge Penny” and “Judge Karen” from Sony.

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