`Crossing Over’ sensing skeptics

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

For a show whose very premise sets out to make believers out of the audience, the credibility that matters most right now is that of its distributor.
Three skeptical national reports about behind-the-scenes action on the Sci-Fi Channel hit “Crossing Over With John Edward” have added new drama to Mr. Edward’s spooky readings of deceased spirits. But with a syndication window opening up this fall, thanks to an enormously successful National Association of Television Program Executives conference, distributor Studios USA is fighting back against the naysayers.
The reports, led by the most critical of the bunch, Time magazine, claimed that the series uses tricks to find out background information about members of the studio audience.
This theory is strongly rebutted by Studios USA executives. However, rival syndicators are already implying that the show is facing new skepticism from stations this fall and that it may now face an uphill battle to even get on the air.
All doubts should now be put aside, according to both studio and station sources-the half-hour strip will indeed cross over into syndication this fall.
“We are in a very strong position,” said Steve Rosenberg, president of Studios USA Domestic Television. “Clearances are approaching 90 percent of the U.S., and the buzz on this show is incredible. It’s one thing to be selling hype or selling off of a pilot or presentation tape in the hope that the production will look that good every day. It’s quite another to have a show that is already on the air, has constantly high production values and people are this excited about.”
Rumors that stations are rethinking their commitment to the show are completely false, according to Virginia Hunt, program director at KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, where “Crossing Over” is set to air next season.
An inside look at the Sci-Fi Channel hit also ran on “Dateline NBC” as well as on “Inside Edition,” although neither took as hard a stance as Time’s report.
“The Time magazine piece was a blatant case of irresponsible journalism and an embarrassment for a major news weekly that prides itself on its journalistic integrity,” said Mr. Rosenberg. “There was no fact checking; the information was gathered from Web sites and other dubious sources.”
Studios USA has sent a letter to the magazine in response to the article. It notes that the company stands by the show’s opening disclaimer, which states that John Edward receives no previous information about those he reads and that there are no plants in the audience and no secret microphones eavesdropping on gallery conversations.
“Crossing Over” has nabbed one of the strongest clearance rates among upcoming shows for the new season, including KCAL; WCBS-TV, New York; and WPWR-TV, Chicago.