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‘She Spies’ created by NBC ‘ad guys’

Jun 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

There is no one the creators of MGM’s upcoming action hour “She Spies” trust more than the guys who shot and aired those talked-about promos for the show during the NBA Playoffs.
Fortunately for Vince Manze and Joe Livecchi, the duo behind the new Natasha Henstridge vehicle, they happen to be the forces behind the promos as well. Mr. Manze currently serves as co-president of The NBC Agency, while Mr. Livecchi is VP of NBC 2000. Both service the advertising and promotional needs of all-NBC owned entities, including “She Spies.” For two self-professed “ad guys,” taking on the duties of running a show was a natural extension of their jobs.
“The last three or four years, I’ve been looking for something with a female action lead as part of my development deal with NBC,” Mr. Manze said. “Joe and I soon developed the show together that not only created three strong leads but can use the strengths we have on the corporate side for promos, such as editing, comedy and music. After all, we generally have only 30 seconds to make something exciting.”
The upcoming show features Ms. Henstridge as a professional con artist and “mistress of disguise,” who leads a trio of ex-cons enlisted by a secret government agency to work undercover in lieu of serving lengthy prison sentences. Kristen Miller and Natashia Williams join Ms. Henstridge as the former felons.
In this case, timing was everything. Mr. Manze said the concept of and financing for the show would have been difficult to get off the ground if not for the recent creation by Jeff Zucker of a division to launch NBC’s own syndication sales unit, NBC Enterprises.
“It was clear this was a natural for syndication,” Mr. Livecchi said. “We went to [NBC Enterprises President] Ed Wilson, who agreed and was instrumental in making the economics work.”
In an era when studios are pulling out of the often costly syndicated action hour, with even onetime stalwarts “Baywatch” and “Xena” in the grave, NBC will launch “She Spies” in syndication Sept. 30, after a four-episode run on the NBC network in July.
“The business model we’ve developed here is a natural extension of NBC’s ongoing partnership with MGM, which continues to expand and change to meet the demands of an ever-changing marketplace,” Mr. Wilson said. “We are all thrilled with the strong clearances this series has already generated.”
The series has now locked in 83 percent of the country for the fall, including WNBC-TV, New York, and KNBC-TV, Los Angeles, under a business model developed between NBC and MGM in which MGM will produce 20 episodes of the series and handle U.S. distribution of the show.
“This great station lineup, combined with the four-episode prime-time sneak peek on NBC, gives `She Spies’ an unprecedented launch platform for its syndication debut,” said Jim Packer, executive VP, television sales, North America, MGM Worldwide Television.
NBC will air “She Spies” at 10 p.m. Saturdays beginning July 20. According to Mr. Livecchi, the time slot is more than compatible for the series.
“We already knew that action/comedy works well on Saturday nights from our movie package,” he said. “MGM was so excited about the project, they gave us a run of `Species’ [the feature film that also stars Ms. Henstridge] to air just before the show’s premiere. They’ve been terrific in taking care of the production and business side of the show so we can focus on the stories.”
With advertising in their blood, the two are already thinking advertiser integration into the series through product placement.
“Action/comedy is the perfect way to get advertisers involved in the show,” Mr. Manze said. “What could look more natural than when they are finished kicking bad-guy booty and then come home and drink a Coke or maybe buy a Domino’s Pizza when they are up late?”
Although advertiser deals are still being discussed, the duo revealed that the series will include a theatrical poster scene for MGM’s upcoming James Bond film.
“Somehow, I don’t think you’d see Martin Sheen say `I want a Coke’ on `The West Wing,’ Mr. Manze said. “`She Spies’ is playful in that way. We’re not taking ourselves too seriously.”