Gameshows, psychic enter programming mix

'Gong' revival, 'Crossing Over' to talk to dead

HOLLYWOOD — Zigging while the others are zagging has proved successful in syndicated TV. In fact, the biggest hit in five years, “Judge Judy,” showed up when gavels were a syndie rarity.

Still, the majority of projects being pitched at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives mart fall into categories that are populated by competing projects, such as relationship, talk or game.

Pearson Television, which had success in the last two seasons with revivals “Family Feud” and “To Tell the Truth,” is likely to take out a new incarnation of “Card Sharks.”

And Columbia TriStar TV Distribution has shot tape on “Pyramid,” with Donny Osmond, and “The Gong Show,” with Tom Arnold.

One project that falls into its own category for a number of reasons is “Crossing Over With John Edward,” from Studios USA Domestic TV.

Mortal thoughts

During the half-hour that airs Sunday-Thursday on Studios USA Domestic Television cabler Sci Fi Channel, psychic medium Edward communicates with the dead.

No other psychic-led strip is on offer this season, and Studios USA Domestic Television is taking the dual-platform distribution approach that other studios have shied away from when it comes to strips. If cleared in broadcast syndication, the show, which is the top-rated program on Sci Fi, will air on the cable net and in syndication concurrently.

Opposing viewpoint

Critics of the dual-platform distrib method say stations won’t be willing to give up program exclusivity. Yet, Studios USA Domestic Television has pulled off the strategy twice, with now-defunct “Lover or Loser” and with stable performer “Invisible Man.”

“I don’t think it’s the dual platform that makes or does not make a show work,” Studios USA Domestic Television prexy Steve Rosenberg says. “But it will provide a show that is doing well with a narrowly focused audience to have exposure to a larger audience that doesn’t get a chance to see it.”

Another unusual run is being made by Paramount Domestic Television, which is taking out half-hour weekly entertainment review series “Hot Ticket,” with Leonard Maltin and E! Entertainment personality Todd Newton. The show represents the first challenge in many years to Buena Vista’s Roger Ebert franchise, which is now called “Ebert & Roeper and the Movies.”

“We know movies are a very important subject for a lot of people. They’re at the heart of our culture,” says Par domestic TV co-prexy Joel Berman. “For all these years, there’s been one movie review show. Now there will be two.”

The project comes a year after Par let go of a handful of half-hour weekly series, which Berman says were inherited through corporate acquisitions that the studio “didn’t see as having a lot of upside for us.”

“‘Hot Ticket’ could become a franchise in its own right,” he adds. “Just because it’s a half-hour weekly doesn’t mean it couldn’t.”

Some other studios remain quiet about any new programming they might be offering in Las Vegas. Carsey-Werner and MGM have not announced any new projects, and Twentieth Television’s newly installed prexy/chief operating officer, Bob Cook, has been mum on taking anything out from the studio’s larger-than-usual development slate.