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`Port Charles’ in a storm

Nov 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

ABC is set to greenlight the reality series “The Last Resort,” throwing into question the future of “Port Charles,” its low-rated daytime soap opera.
Word of a possible cancellation for the 4-year-old spinoff of “General Hospital” came when Electronic Media learned late last week that Buena Vista Productions, the Disney division that supplies programming for ABC Daytime as well as for cable and syndication, is on the verge of moving forward with “The Last Resort” for a 2002
launch and has recently completed a pilot for the project.
The dilemma facing Buena Vista is where to place the new series. There have been discussions to have “The Last Resort” replace “Port Charles,” according to executives familiar with the situation, though they caution that no decision has been reached and that the reality series could very well find some other time slot.
The show, produced by Fisher Entertainment in association with Wheeler/Sussman, is planned as a weekday strip. The premise of the show is that four couples, each on the brink of either breakup or marriage, are flown to Hawaii to take part in therapy sessions and a series of challenges.
A Buena Vista spokesperson was adamant that the company had no plans to cancel “Port Charles” at this time.
An executive at Fisher declined comment.
One complicating factor is that recently the flailing soap opera has picked up some momentum.
In the most recent ratings report, for the first time since June 19, 2000, “Port Charles” beat NBC’s “Passions” in women 18 to 49. Also, “Port Charles” is up 20 percent in that key demo-season to date-more than any other daytime program. ABC has a total of four soaps on the air, and even with its improvement, “Port Charles” manages just over half the audience of ABC’s third-place soap.
Another executive, one close to “Port Charles,” said the soap has been fighting the threat of the cancellation ax for a while but was hoping for a continued reprieve based on growing numbers.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished with this series,” said the executive. “But if another program moves forward, I guarantee that we are squarely in the [network] crosshairs.”
“The Last Resort” had at one point been considered for a syndicated run from Buena Vista. However, various Disney executives have opted, at this point, to try to launch the series-a la “The View”-as a network feed. Other time slots said to have been considered for the series had been late-night, as a companion for “Politically Incorrect,” but most executives familiar with the show seem to feel that the styles of the two shows wouldn’t mesh well and that daytime would likely be a more profitable location for “The Last Resort.”
Despite widespread concern that reality series are played out, networks continue to give the go-ahead on future entries in the genre. Last week, NBC found its newest reality TV producer in CNBC Burbank correspondent Andrew Glassman.
The network ordered a pilot for “24 Hour Pass,” which follows couples as they separate for 24 hours to do whatever they want. Mr. Glassman created the concept and will executive produce with “The Weakest Link’s” Stuart Krasnow.
Beyond “24 Hour Pass,” NBC’s roster of upcoming reality series includes a nonfiction version of “Fantasy Island,” “Threesome” and “Truth or Dare.”