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Steve Wilkos Jumping Off Springerboard

January 15, 2007 12:00 AM

Talk about development hell.

NBC Universal is finally set to sell a talk show hosted by "Jerry Springer" bodyguard Steve Wilkos to the Tribune and Sinclair station groups, a full 31/2 years after the project was first pitched, according to sources close to the deal.

The deal will finish "The Greg Behrendt Show's" run on Tribune, likely signaling a cancellation for the freshman series at the end of the season. An announcement regarding the agreement between Tribune and NBC Universal could come Wednesday at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention. The station groups are also expected to announce renewals for "The Jerry Springer Show" with NBC Universal, with the two series being eyed as companion shows on daytime lineups.

Blink fondly remembers when news of the Mr. Wilkos development deal broke-not last week, but in 2003, before Universal merged with NBC. Blink reported that Mr. Wilkos was developing a strip aimed at expanding "Springer's" audiences, but stations at the time were uninterested and the project fell by the wayside.

Flash forward to 2006, when a perfect storm opened the way for the Wilkos series to move forward. "Springer's" deal with the station group was up for renewal, and his public profile was hitting a new peak after he appeared on "Dancing With the Stars." Mr. Springer also inked a deal with VH1 for an unscripted series that will go behind the scenes of his daytime show.

Enter Mr. Wilkos. Tribune and Sinclair had been searching for a series to bolster troubled time periods on their stations. After seeing Mr. Wilkos fill in for Mr. Springer this past season, station group executives decided to pick up the show.

"The Tribune stations have had enormous success with counterprogramming daytime shows with `Springer' and `Maury,"' said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Media. "Given the fact that Steven Wilkos has been filling in for Jerry, the audience is already prepared to see him hosting a show." An NBC Universal spokesman declined to comment about the series.

-Chris Pursell

J. Lo-Maintenance?

Jennifer Lopez is famous for, among many things, diva-like demands when making public appearances. For her showings at the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena in support of MTV's new reality series "Dance Life," the network was ready. MTV reserved for Ms. Lo the Ritz Carlton's "Tournament of Roses Suite," a two-story, $3,000-per-night accommodation complete with spiral staircase and a baby grand piano. Blink applauds MTV's thoughtfulness. Ms. Lo, however, did not avail herself of the fancy digs. Never ones to let money go to waste, the MTV Networks team descended on the suite and had a private party in Ms. Lo's room. The busman's holiday created a favorable impression of Ms. Lo, who has earned a reputation for fearsomeness in the past. One source said Ms. Lo was "low maintenance," in a "good mood" and "extremely professional."

-James Hibberd

The Hef Hosts The Donald

"The Apprentice" and "The Adam Carolla Show" are hooking up to host a party at the Playboy Mansion Thursday. You're not invited, unless you've won one of the 40 invitations for two given out on Mr. Carolla's radio show ... or unless you're a member of the team that won last night's task on "The Apprentice": designing swimwear for clothing designer Trina Turk ... or unless you're one of the leggy lovelies modeling Trina Turk swimwear at the mansion ... or unless you're Trump clan members Donald Jr., Ivanka and Melania, and, of course, The Donald (who will be making an appearance for NBC's Television Critics Association day) ... or unless you are among the former "Apprenti," including the infamous Omarosa Manigualt Stallworth ... or-well, you get the idea: everybody who's anybody "Apprentice"-related. What about "The View's" Rosie O'Donnell, whose feud with Mr. Trump got publicity for both shows? "It would be rude not to offer an invitation to Rosie," said Vince Manze, president and creative director of The NBC Agency. "And I guess Barbara as well." -Michele Greppi

The Other Sporty Spice

Television executives are hoping they'll enjoy the same kind of kick gossip rags get from soccer star David Beckham and his Spice Girl wife when the pair arrives in L.A. over the summer. Mr. Beckham signed a deal to play with the L.A. Galaxy of Major League Soccer, which signed $160 million worth of TV contracts with ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel, Univision and HDNet late last year. All of those networks hope Mr. Beckham will provide a reason for Americans to pay attention to soccer on the telly-a more likely prospect if other international stars follow him here. "There's going to be a lot more casual interest in MSL than before," said David Sternberg, executive VP and general manager of Fox Soccer Channel. "Hopefully we can turn some of those new viewers into fans." Fox Soccer Channel may not transform into all Beckham all the time, but Mr. Sternberg expects Mr. Beckham to be a focus of the channel's nightly news. Ms. Beckham is welcome too. "She's a very telegenic personality in her own right," he said. Then there's "Bend It Like Beckham," the popular soccer film released by Fox Searchlight Pictures in 2002. "We may have to look into getting the basic cable rights," Mr. Sternberg said. -Jon Lafayette