‘Seinfeld’ vet hits the road

Jun 17, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Will the real J. Peterman please stand up?
That’s a question viewers may ask as ex-“Seinfeld” actor John O’Hurley teams with his real-life alter-ego J. Peterman to create a travel TV series.
“I’ll be the host and narrate the show, but it will be shot as if it’s through the eyes of J. Peterman as he goes on these distant adventures,” said Mr. O’Hurley, who on “Seinfeld” portrayed Elaine’s boss J. Peterman. “We’re going to keep J. Peterman as this amorphous, mysterious figure and make his point of view the lens of the show. I would say this travel show will be a somewhat more elegant version of `On the Road With Charles Kuralt’ mixed with the ruggedness of an `Indiana Jones’-like archaeology hunt.”
Mr. O’Hurley, who recently took an equity investment stake in the revived J. Peterman Co. catalog business, said the travel series is being pitched to several cable networks, including Discovery Networks’ Travel Channel, the A&E Network and Fine Living Network. It is early in the negotiations, but Mr. O’Hurley told Electronic Media he hopes to go into production on the hour-long weekly series this fall in anticipation of a possible launch in late 2002 or early 2003.
In what could be considered a natural promotion vehicle for J. Peterman Co.’s reconstituted Internet site (www.jpeterman.com) and catalog line, Mr. O’Hurley said there will be no direct product placement or transactional sales element within the series. Still, the exposure for the J. Peterman name is considered vital for the company, which is recovering from a bankruptcy reorganization several years ago.
“We have the catalog and Internet business, and we’re really looking for the new series-in addition to the `Seinfeld’ connection, to be honest-to reinforce the brand recognition of the company,” Mr. O’Hurley said.
In addition to serving as host, Mr. O’Hurley is expected to join Betsy Kulman, a former CNN specials and series producer, as an executive producer of the travel series. He said the writers of the J. Peterman catalogs, known for a “Hemingwayesque style that makes the journey more important than the destination,” are being enlisted to write the scripts for the globetrotting series.
Blending reality with fantasy seems to be a specialty of Mr. O’Hurley these days. He donned the white-suited role of Mr. Roarke (first played by Ricardo Montalban in the ABC series) in a pilot production of “Fantasy Island,” a hybrid reality/fantasy series that was completed for NBC in April. Mr. O’Hurley said he is awaiting word on whether NBC will pick up the new version of “Fantasy Island” for the 2002-03 season.
In the meantime, even though Mr. O’Hurley’s hosting gig on the syndicated game show “To Tell Truth” is coming to an end after two years, he has another project on the front burner with NBC-“The National Dog Show Presented By Purina,” a two-hour special to air following NBC’s high-rated “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” in New York this November.
“There could be some people saying that NBC is going to the dogs,” Mr. O’Hurley joked, “but the National Dog Show is considered as important a show as the Westminster [Kennel Club] Dog Show,” which gets about the highest cable ratings annually for USA Network.
“The biggest question people have is if I will emulate Fred Willard in `Best of Show,’ but I really see this tournament as something entertaining, light and informative,” Mr. O’Hurley said. “I have never shown a dog, but you really do have to have respect for all of the finest specimens and breeds of dogs in the world exhibited at these shows. We’re going to be getting Eddie, the dog from `Frasier,’ to do a promotional spot where we’re fighting over the remote control.”