Michael Davies sets heavy slate
As he preps for next month’s 10th anniversary return to primetime of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” Michael Davies is also ramping up production at his Embassy Row shingle.GSN has just given a hefty 65-episode renewal to its revived version of “The Newlywed Game.” Davies produces the show for Sony Pictures TV, which acquired his company earlier this year. In conjunction with that pickup, “The Newlywed Game” is moving production to the West Coast (from the East); the show will now be produced in Glendale. “We’re expanding the base of Embassy Row and producing on both coasts,” Davies said. “Since the new administration came in at GSN, we’ve done a lot of work with them, and coming back for year two is wonderful. It’s a brilliant format that we can take no credit for.” Davies is also waiting for word from CBS on the fate of “The $25,000 Pyramid” and “The Dating Game,” two more new takes on classic gamers for which Embassy Row recently shot pilots. The Eye has been developing a handful of game revivals (those two, as well as “Let’s Make a Deal”) to fill the slot being vacated by the canceled “Guiding Light.” Busy Davies, who is working closely with Sony alternative/syndication topper Holly Jacobs on all new development, is also developing “Celebrity Mr. and Mrs.” for TV Land. A quizshow featuring celebs and their significant others, “Mr. and Mrs.” originally hailed from Canada decades ago but was recently revived as a celeb edition in the U.K. by 2waytraffic — which, like Embassy Row, is a recent Sony acquisition. Embassy Row is also producing the hidden camera series “Make My Day” for TV Land, which launches the show next month. Over at CMT, Davies shot the pilot “National Bible Champs.” Show pits contestants of different faiths against each other. “We’re living through the best market I’ve ever seen for gameshows,” Davies said. “Games are high quality, very sticky, boast a lot of interactive elements, and they’re cheaper than almost any other form of programming. And we’re known as one of the companies that produce this stuff at reasonable cost.” Beyond the games, Davies also just launched Bravo’s latenight gabber “Watch What Happens: Live,” starring Bravo exec Andy Cohen. Show is so low budget that it’s actually shot out of Embassy Row’s New York offices. “It’s a tiny studio, and we’re able to shoot the show right out of there for a fraction of the budget of other Bravo programs,” he said. Embassy Row continues to produce several series for Food Network, including “Grill It! With Bobby Flay,” through Rock Shrimp Prods., its joint venture with Flay. The company is also behind the daily YouTube production “Poptub” through its digital arm, and Davies continues to exec produce ABC’s “Wife Swap” and the daytime “Millionaire” strip, which is about to enter its eighth year. As for the primetime “Millionaire,” besides the return of original host Regis Philbin, Davies said he’s planning to bring back several of the original features and games that helped make the show such a smash in its 1999 launch. “My No. 1 aim on this show is to celebrate ‘Millionaire’s’ 10th anniversary,” he said. “What we’re not trying to do is get this back on the air as a regular series. If ABC says we should do this every August, that would be fantastic.” Davies has already lined up a lengthy list of past winners, as well as well-known experts and celebs to take part in this year’s event. Each episode will end with a celeb in the hot seat, playing for charity. Having purchased both Embassy Row and 2way, Sony is looking toward next month’s event as a chance to expand the “Millionaire” brand globally.