New syndie scenes for `3rd Rock’

Oct 22, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Leave it to that oddball family of aliens on “3rd Rock From the Sun” to find alternative ways to say goodbye in the off-network syndication universe.
On NBC’s May 22, 2001, series finale of “3rd Rock,” the otherworldly Solomon family bid its adieu to Earth after a six-year run on the Peacock Network and headed back to its home planet. But because series producer Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Co. wrestled with how the show would end and filmed a never-before-seen alternative ending that will find its way to TV on a special episode to air in off-network syndication Friday, Nov. 16.
Coming at the beginning of the third week of the crucial November sweeps period (Nov. 1 to 28), the special re-edited final episode-the last half of a two-part story arc-is being tied into a “3rd Rock From the Sun $10,000 Alien Face-Off” sweepstakes promotion with 432 Wherehouse Music stores nationwide.
Additionally, French Stewart, who played oddball alien Harry Solomon, will be hosting specially taped introductions of the Nov. 15-16 episodes-also offering some insights as to why the show’s “surprise ending” segment was originally held from air on NBC.
“We think this is an unprecedented promotional stunt in syndication, because I don’t know if viewers have ever been privy to watching a never-before-seen alternative ending to an off-network sitcom,” said Dan Weiss, senior VP of marketing and creative services for Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Distribution Co. Drawing the nearest comparison, Mr. Weiss said the “enhanced viewing experience” is something akin to the deleted scenes and bloopers offered on DVD releases of popular motion pictures these days.
“This will be a new ending that is not only going to be appealing to hard-core fans of `3rd Rock,’ but it should also bring in the more casual viewers as well,” said Mr. Weiss, who noted that the alternative ending makes up roughly the final five minutes of the Nov. 16 episode. “The one NBC went with was a bit more sentimental, but the other one is a little bit more outrageous and keeping with the show’s twisted humor.”
Mr. Weiss declined to give any further details on the show’s alternative ending, opting to maintain a veil of secrecy over and integrity behind the promotional campaign.
Central to the “Alien Face-Off” promotion in Wherehouse stores is a contest that asks which two-word phrase is repeated twice by alien family patriarch Dick Solomon (played by John Lithgow) in the final minute of the alternative ending of the show. Viewers who get in cards postmarked by Dec. 27, 2001, will be eligible to win the $10,000 cash prize through a random drawing to be held on or about Jan. 10, 2002.
To drive consumer awareness of the contest promotion, Mr. Weiss said Wherehouse Music (in 39 states) will distribute more than 2 million instant-win game pieces, with which consumers can win 500 music CDs and 500 “3rd Rock” T-shirts. In addition to placing in-store signage in Wherehouse stores, the retailer will air 30-second promotional spots on video monitors in 275 of its outlets.
Mr. Weiss also said Carsey-Werner-Mandabach will be providing its client TV stations with a full complement of 30-, 20- and 15-second promo spots tied with entertainment Web site RottenTomatoes.com, in addition to providing print and radio ads hyping the never-before-seen “surprise ending.” Carsey-Werner-Mandabach also set up a new 3rdRock.com Web site last week to promote the show and sweepstakes.
Mr. Weiss was unable to get an immediate fix on the cost of the promotions, but he estimated that the value of the “media impressions” comes into the “millions of dollars.”
With most off-network sitcoms getting special promotional pushes in their first year in syndication on TV stations, Mr. Weiss further suggests that the alternative-ending “Face-Off” promotion is unique for a sitcom entering its third year in distribution. This season (Sept. 10 to 30), “3rd Rock” has been averaging a 2.2 rating in households nationally, according to the latest Nielsen Syndication Service ranking report.
“We really think this is going to drive viewership,” Mr. Weiss said. “And it is going to be the wave of the future, where stations won’t just want the standard reruns but also want something of added value to promote sitcoms as they get deeper into their off-network runs.”