Two veteran network TV writer-producers have signed on to guide the initial projects in Worldvision’s “Spelling Premiere Network,” a block of two firstrun hours debuting in August that mark Spelling Entertainment’s first foray into syndication.
Michael Gleason, who created “Remington Steele,” will serve as show runner for the “Charlie’s Angels”-meets-“Countdown at the Neon Armadillo” series, “Robin’s Hoods.”
William Blinn (“Brian’s Song,””Starsky and Hutch”) will exec produce “Heaven Help Us,” a melding of “Highway to Heaven,””Heaven Can Wait” and “Hotel.”
Blinn’s extensive list of network credits includes “Our House,””The Rookies, “”Eight Is Enough,””Roots,””The Interns” and “Here Come the Brides.”
The “Heaven” gig comes a decade after Blinn broke ground in the firstrun arena. As exec producer of “Fame,” he took the series from a two-year run on NBC into firstrun syndication.
Although it remained alive for only one season (1984-85) in its post-web life , “Fame” paved the way for other canceled network programs to make the leap into firstrun production.
It also helped create the avalanche of firstrun projects that is now either on the air or being peddled for fall. Unlike the other, male-oriented hours, the “Spelling” projects will vie for women viewers.
In fact, a number of CBS affiliates have approached Worldvision to license the “Premiere Network” to fill the void left by the loss of National Football Conference games to Fox. The stations are seeking to counterprogram by going after the female audience.
Producer Aaron Spelling, who made his mark in the network TV business with shows appealing to women, recalls the company was initially skeptical about the syndicated project when Worldvision first approached it with the idea.
But the Chris-Craft station group was asking for female-skewing shows. With the built-in demand and the lure of a 22-episode order rather than a six-episode pickup from a network, Spelling had a change of heart and pitched the firstrun concepts to a group of key station execs last year.
“Premiere Network” clearances are now in the 75%-80% range and Spelling TV senior VP Marcia Basichis is about to begin casting the two series.
The move into firstrun apparently convinced Spelling to venture into other uncharted areas. Sources say the company has a newspaper-based sitcom pilot project at NBC as well as a rock ‘n’ roll horror anthology pilot at Fox.
With at least seven projects on the board for fall under Basichis, Spelling is also poised to become a key supplier for the fifth weblet being formed by Paramount and Chris-Craft.