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Lawrence, Group W reconcile on ‘Vicki!’

In a move that had been expected (Daily Variety, June 14), Group W Prods. and entertainer Vicki Lawrence have resolved their differences and agreed to go ahead with a second season of the syndicated talkshow “Vicki!”

Group W has given into a number of the hostess’ demands, including the primary condition that she be given more creative control over the program.

Under the new pact, Lawrence will gain the added title of co-exec producer with Group W vet Nancy Alspaugh, who helmed the show during its first season.

Additionally, Lawrence’s husband, Al Schultz, will be given the title of Group W creative consultant.

Lawrence’s attorney, Greg McGregor, said Schultz had been serving in a similar role during the first season without pay and the title is in recognition of his contributions.

The new contract, which McGregor said also includes an “adjustment” in Lawrence’s financial package, is bound to disappoint some competing syndicators itching to upgrade their own talkshows into “Vicki!” time slots.

“Vicki!” is currently cleared in 174 markets covering 96% of the country. Group W had renewed the show in a large chunk of the U.S. before the internal spat spilled into the public spotlight just prior to the May sweeps.

Group W prez Derk Zimmerman said that while a handful of stations held off on renewals until the situation was resolved, none of them committed to a spate of other chat shows.

The reconciliation brings to an end the publicity war that Lawrence has waged against Zimmerman since she left the show in a huff, insisting that she needed more creative control and demanding more respect from the Group W topper.

On Wednesday, however, Lawrence sounded more like Rodney King than Rodney Dangerfield, urging everyone to get along.

“I think what Derk and I have both learned is that we need to sit down once in a while and chat,” she said in a statement. “…Derk Zimmerman and I have re-established the fact that we believe in each other as much as we did when we launched this sucker.”

Zimmerman said that Lawrence “won’t have to do things she doesn’t want to do” from now on. He also noted the addition of Schultz as a Group W consultant “will be real positive for us and the show.”

Production will resume Aug. 3, with the second season of shows slated to begin airing Sept. 13.

Despite the negative publicity surrounding Lawrence’s absence during the May sweeps, partial Nielsen sweeps results indicate the show managed to boost the time period average share by 25% over the previous May — with some station reps speculating that more viewers watched out of curiosity.

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