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Jun 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

‘Test’ time for Studios USA

Syndie player Studios USA is adding talk show “Put It to the Test” to its growing development list for fall 2002. The studio is developing the potential strip with Zoo Productions, sources said. It will use technology to answer questions on topics ranging from paternity tests to detecting lies. The show comes from the producers of “The Blame Game” and “Mandy Moore” (both on MTV), Internet sensation “Dare for $$$” and such talk shows as “Ricki Lake” and “Queen Latifah.” A Studios USA spokesperson would not comment on the series.

In addition, the studio will unveil upcoming psychic talk show “Crossing Over With John Edward” on Aug. 27.

Jersey Television signs on to work with Columbia TriStar: In a major coup for Sony-owned Columbia TriStar Television, Danny DeVito’s Jersey Television has signed a new three-year, exclusive network TV production pact with the Culver City, Calif. studio. The new deal calls for Jersey to develop series and motion pictures for all areas of television.

Mr. DeVito’s production banner is leaving the 20th Century Fox Television lot, where Jersey and 20th Century Fox are co-production partners on the fall 2001 NBC drama “U.C.: Undercover” and the midseason Fox drama “Emma Brody.” Jersey, along with 20th and CBS Productions, also produced last season’s “Kate Brasher” for CBS. A Hollywood studio source said Columbia TriStar ponied up a $3 million signing bonus to Jersey Television but did not have an annual pay-out estimate. Spokespeople for Columbia TriStar and Jersey Television were unreachable to outline terms of the deal.

Joining Mr. DeVito in the move of the Jersey TV banner are Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher and John Landgraf, in a deal that was announced by Tom Mazza, president of network television, Columbia TriStar Television.

“Jersey Television is one of the premiere creators of top-quality television product, and we are very pleased that they recognize Columbia TriStar Television as a company that welcomes and respects them and is capable of nourishing and supporting their creative output,” Mr. Mazza said in a prepared statement.

“Tom Mazza and his team had an instant rapport with all of us,” said John Landgraf, partner and president of Jersey Television. “We feel Columbia TriStar is the perfect home for our company, and Tom was so persuasive we could not pass up this opportunity to take Jersey Television to the next level under CTT’s auspices. But we will always be grateful to 20th Century Fox Television, which has supported us so well.”

“For 10 years, Jersey Films has been a home for artists who want support and inspiration to do work that combines quality and commerciality,” Mr. Landgraf added. “My goal for the past two years has been to create a sister company that maintains that vision. So far, the formula has worked as well in television as it does in films. We’ve been fortunate to work with really talented writers such as Shane Salerno (“UC”), Jim Parriott (“Emma Brody”) and Stephen Tolkin (“Kate Brasher”), who have created material that has attracted top-level directors and actors.”

Jersey TV was represented in the deal by Creative Artists Agency.

ABC News’ to re-edit Stossel piece involving children: ABC News is removing the images and voices of some children from Friday’s John Stossel special, “Tampering With Nature,” after seven parents of the children withdrew their consent to use the children’s interviews in the show about the environment and accused the ABC News correspondent of misleading them. In a statement, ABC News defended Mr. Stossel as having “conducted in a professional and responsible manner according to the highest journalistic standards” but said it noted the sensitivity required “when parents raise objections regarding the appearance of their young children on television.

“In the present case, ABC News has decided it will respect the belated decision of a number of parents to withdraw their consent,” said the statement.

Michael Scott, father of one of the children in question, said he was pleased with ABC News’ decision, although he was still uncomfortable with how the interviews were obtained and conducted.

While the images and voices of the children, most from Canyon Charter School in Santa Monica, will be removed from the special, summaries of what the children said to Mr. Stossel may make the final cut, suggested a spokesman for ABC News, who said the special will explain what happened.

According to the Associated Press, a tape of the unedited special had the children featured in a segment that accuses educators of presenting only one side of an environmental debate in schools. Stossel suggests the children are being indoctrinated by environmental activists and not educated. In the excised segment, Stossel asks a group of children whether solar power should be used, and they all raise their hands to indicate yes. When he asks about nuclear power, none of them raise their hands. The unedited special also quotes a child who says that President Bush is intent on helping his friends in the oil industry.

Coordinating the parents’ protest was the Environmental Working Group, which has quarreled in the past with Mr. Stossel’s reporting and which last year forced ABC News to apologize for a Stossel story about the safety of organic food. Mr. Stossel was reprimanded and his producer suspended.CBS Radio Sports puts Visser in Monday night football booth: CBS sportscaster Lesley Visser will break another gender barrier when she joins Howard David and Boomer Esiason in the Westwood One/CBS Radio Sports booth for Monday night football games next season.

Ms. Visser is booked to work at least two games — Sept. 17 and Oct. 15 — and perhaps more, depending on what else she can fit on her plate, which is already heaped with commitments to CBS Sports, CBS News and HBO. “We’re starting with a few games. I just couldn’t figure out how to slice my life any thinner,” said Ms. Visser, for whom this assignment will mean a prime-time reunion with Mr. Esiason. Both were abruptly jettisoned last season during ABC’s remake of its ABC Sports “Monday Night Football” team. Ms. Visser was replaced by Melissa Stark in a move that came as a “titanic shock,” Ms. Visser said.

Ms. Visser was the first woman to cover the NFL as a beat (at the Boston Globe), the first to report from the sidelines of the Super Bowl and is still the only woman to have hosted the post-game Super Bowl trophy presentation (1992).

Larry Michael, vice president of sports programming for Westwood One, said conversations about guest appearances have been held with former coach Bill Parcells, former quarterback John Elway and former tennis star John McEnroe among others, and “there certainly is” a possibility of a visit from former President Bill Clinton.

CBS really loves Romano: Ray Romano, star of the 4-year-old “Everybody Loves Raymond” sitcom, is reportedly closing on a $800,000-per-episode deal valued at $40 million over the next two seasons.

Mr. Romano’s lucrative arrangement with HBO Independent Productions and Worldwide Pants, who co-produce “Raymond,” comes on the heels of “Frasier” (NBC) star Kelsey Grammer re-signing for a record $1.6 million an episode from Paramount Network Television and Drew Carey re-upping for about $750,000 per episode with Warner Bros. Television for “The Drew Carey Show” (ABC) last week.

Spokespeople for CBS and HBO Independent Productions were unreachable for comment.

After September, when “Raymond” launches in off-network syndication, Mr. Romano — as well as other creatives involved in the show — will additionally be participating in the $300 million in back-end revenue for the first five-year cycle of the show.

NBC’s ‘Fear Factor’ wins key demos: NBC’s newfound reality programming juggernaut kept rolling Monday night as “Fear Factor” scored the highest adults 18 to 49 ratings of the evening and improved 17 percent week to week, according to comparable Nielsen Media Research fast national data. A wiseguy take on “Candid Camera,” “Fear Factor’s” 5.4 rating/18 share average in adults 18 to 49 at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) Monday held a
whopping 80 percent margin of victory over CBS’s repeats “King of Queens” (3.1/11) and “Yes, Dear” (2.9/9), which averaged 3.0/10 for the full hour.

Most notable in “Fear Factor’s” third week of consistent growth was the show opening 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with a 4.5/16 in adults 18 to 49 and then climbing 38 percent to a 6.2/19 for the closing half-hour frame. Overall, “Fear Factor’s” 7.2/13 in households represented 6 percent growth week to week and tied 9 p.m. lead-out “Weakest Link” (7.2/12) in that category.

Similarly, “Weakest Link” held all of its lead-in among adults 18 to 49 (5.4/15) while dropping about 10 percent from its previous week’s average (6.0/17) in the key demo.

NBC won Monday night with a 4.6/14 share in adults 18 to 49, averaging 10.1 million viewers overall to beat CBS (3.5/10, 9.9 million viewers) by 31 percent in the demo and by 1 percent in total viewers. Compared with the same night last summer, NBC was up 53 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 19 percent in total viewers.

As “Fear Factor” and “Weakest Link” have emerged as the two top-ranked entertainment programs on the broadcast networks’ repeat-laden summer schedules, both carried NBC to a weekly win in adults 18 to 49 (3.1/10) for the week of June 18 to 24, according to final Nielsen national averages. NBC’s similar reality premiere of “Spy TV” last Thursday (June 26) scored a week’s best 6.6/21 in adults 18 to 49 to cap the Peacock Network’s troika of alternative programming successes for the week.

Reality TV going to war: The British Broadcasting Corp. is taking two dozen reality “recruits” and putting them in the trenches of France to simulate the experience of being a doughboy in World War I. The volunteers will experience everything from bad food and sleep deprivation to mock shelling and mustard gas, according to a report in the British press. The result of their two-week ordeal will be a documentary on what life was like circa 1916 for the average soldier living under fire. “It’s too early to say if this will be coming to the United States,” said a spokesperson for the BBC America cable service.

Network newscasts run close race: The network news race continued to be tight the week of June 18 to 22, when “NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw” averaged 8.53 million viewers, followed by “ABC World News Tonight” (8.32 million) and “CBS Evening News” (7.62 million).

ABC to use ‘virtual camera’ in golf coverage: Making its official debut at the 2001 Canon Greater Hartford Open, which will air this Saturday and Sunday on ABC, is “ABC’s Virtual Camera,” a 3-D computer-generated animation package that allows the commentator to illustrate multiple options for golf shots with the help of very-real-looking “flyover shots” that have everything from pin positions and distance markers to wind-direction arrows. ABC Sports gave the package a test drive during coverage of the World Golf Championship in Australia in January.

Breeders’ Cup renamed: The Breeders’ Cup Championship, an annual fixture on NBC since 1984, has been rebranded the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. The Oct. 27 broadcast from Belmont Park in New York will be expanded from 41/2 hours to five hours starting at 1 p.m. (ET).

‘Wild Thornberrys’ movie begins production: Production has begun on the big-screen version of “The Wild Thornberrys,” the animated kids show that is Nickelodeon’s highest-rated prime-time series.

Among the big-name voice actors joining the cast of the story of a 12-year-old girl who can talk to animals will be Rupert Everett, Marisa Tomei, Lynn Redgrave, Brenda Blethyn and Alfre Woodard. The film version of the series will be from Nickelodeon Movies, the cable network’s feature film development and production division.

Nickelodeon Movies’ most recent release, “Rugrats in Paris — The Movie,” has grossed $100 million to date.(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications