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Oct 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, Oct. 14.

CBS News tweaks ‘Early Show’ for re-launch

With its front foursome wrapped up — “Biography” host and CBS News returnee Harry Smith, former NBC sportscaster Hannah Storm, “The Early Show” survivor Julie Chen and KTVT-TV, Fort Worth, Texas, anchor Rene Syler — CBS News is in a two-week countdown to the re-launch of “Early Show” in what it says will be a “fresh twist on the traditional morning news program.”

The format is being presented as a framework that will accommodate news — especially in the first half-hour, which will be heavy on hard news — while allowing conversation between the hosts, who may handle segments one to four at a time. Having his vision compared with “The View,” the ABC daytime hit on which the hosts do everything as a group, “really bugs me,” said “Early” senior executive producer Michael Bass Monday. “It’s nothing like ‘The View.'” Instead, he talks about “almost an accordion of possibilities” for deploying his hosts in any given segment.

“We will mix it up,” said Mr. Bass, who worked on “Today” over a span of more than a decade and knows the discipline imposed on morning shows by the audience’s early-morning routines. Sometimes “we are going to slide a few things around to create windows for four people to play,” said Mr. Bass, who indicated that it’s not feasible to do longer segments to accommodate four host voices and personalities in every half-hour.

“We’ll mix it up in terms of who presents stories,” said Mr. Bass. Still, some renovation of the 3-year-old, $30 million studio built near Central Park for Bryant Gumbel, who left the network last May, and Jane Clayson, who earned reassignment to “Evening News” last month, will be required to accommodate a team on which no one has precedence and no one is known as the weather person.

Mark McEwen is leaving after 16 years on the early-show shift. Weather will be dealt with either as a national news story or as a local matter to be tucked into the 30-second spots allotted to local stations near the top of each half hour. Mr. Bass said rehearsals will begin next week with his newly assembled team.

Mr. Smith, 51, will continue to host “Biography” on A&E, the job he took after working at CBS News for 13 years, including his stint as co-anchor of “CBS This Morning.” Ms. Storm, 40, is coming off a decade at NBC Sports, where her assignments ranged from the Olympics and the NBA to Wimbledon.

Ms. Chen, 32, came to CBS News via its New York station, WCBS-TV, in June 1999, to anchor “CBS Morning News” and was named “Early” news reader when CBS gave the forever-third-place show its new name, new anchors and a new studio in November 1999. Her duties as host of “Big Brother” have made her familiar to prime-time viewers.

Ms. Syler, 39, the last to be signed, has been a weekday anchor on CBS’s owned-and-operated station in Dallas since 1997, when she moved across town after five years of anchoring at WFAA-TV.

“They all have a lot to say,” said Mr. Bass.

NBC ekes out Sunday night first place: NBC squeaked out a first-place tie with ABC for Sunday night among adults 18 to 49 in prime time as the Peacock Network’s trusty “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” kept widening its victory margin over ABC’s “Alias” in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) frame.

“Criminal Intent,” entering its second season on the air, scored an evening-high 14.4 million total viewers and won the hour in adults 18 to 49 demo by a 21 percent over “Alias” (5.2 rating/12 share vs. 4.3/10), according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data. While “Alias” held even in the key demo, “Criminal Intent” grew by a 4 percent spurt from its previous week’s score (5.0/11).

However, somewhat troubling for NBC was rookie drama “Boomtown,” which dropped 23 percent in adults 18 to 49 (4.0/9) from its “Criminal Intent” lead-in for the 10 p.m. hour. ABC regained its hold on the closing hour, with “The Practice’s” winning 5.9/14 score in adults 18 to 49 improving 37 percent on its “Alias” lead-in and beating “Boomtown” by a 48 percent cushion. “Boomtown,” though, dipped only 5 percent from its previous Sunday outing, while “The Practice” moved up 4 percent week to week. “The Practice” also won the hour in total viewers (14.0 million) and households (9.1/15).

CBS, delayed in its start of the evening by a half-hour by a football overrun, saw the 9:30-to-11:30 p.m. run of its biographical telefilm, “Gleason,” pull in preliminary third-ranked scores in adults 18 to 49 (3.2/8), adults 25 to 54 (3.8/9) and total viewers (10.8 million). Compared with the previous Sunday movie airing of “Hell on Wheels,” “Gleason,” which featured Brad Garrett (of CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”), improved CBS’s scores 14 percent in adults 18 to 49 and 19 percent in adults 25 to 54 week to week.

Things were less conclusive in the 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. hour, NBC’s “American Dreams” opening its third-week outing with a second-ranked 3.7/9 score in adults 18 to 49, but dropped a troubling 23 percent from its previous week’s score (4.8/12).

While Fox continued to preempt its Sunday lineup with Major League Baseball playoffs, industry watchers are wondering if “American Dreams” could suffer worse erosion once Fox’s kicks off its normal Sunday comedy lineup Nov. 3 with such stalwarts as “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill” in 8 p.m. hour.

For the evening overall, NBC held even week to week and tied ABC in adults 18 to 49 (both at 4.1/10 scores), with the latter down a slight 2 percent from the previous Sunday’s score. CBS’s third-ranked 3.6/9 in adults 18 to 49 jumped 29 percent week to week.

Rashad to host ‘Celebrity Mole’: Ahmad Rashad, the Emmy-Award winning sportscaster and former NFL All-Pro wide receiver, has signed to host ABC’s upcoming celebrity edition of “The Mole” for broadcast later this season.

“Celebrity Mole” will be a special six-episode edition of the show that will feature seven celebrity players as they try to figure out who among them is The Mole. The celebrities — two have been named so far, Kathy Griffin (“Suddenly Susan”) and Stephen Baldwin (“The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas”) — will use all their guile to uncover clues that could lead to a pot of up to $250,000.

Mr. Rashad has hosted “NBA’s Inside Stuff” on NBC for 12 seasons, where he also serves as executive producer of the series. He recently signed to work with ESPN and ABC on their newly acquired NBA coverage. A sportscaster since 1983, Mr. Rashad has been a studio host for the NBA, NFL, Notre Dame football and Summer Olympics broadcasts on NBC from Atlanta (1996), Barcelona, Spain (1992) and Seoul, Korea (1988).

Scott Stone and David Stanley are the executive producers of “Celebrity Mole.”

Rico to KCBS: KCBS-TV, Los Angeles, has hired Suzanne Rico to fill the early weekday news position vacated several weeks ago by Catherine Anaya. Ms. Rico, who had reported for ABC News One before becoming a reporter and anchor for NBC-owned KNSD-TV in San Diego two years ago, will report for KCBS and will co-anchor in the mornings with Kent Shocknek starting Oct. 23.

Hallmark gets jolly with sweepstakes: Hallmark Channel is ringing in the holiday season with what it calls the “largest-ever national promotion between a cable channel and a retail network.” That retail network is the Hallmark Gold Crown Stores, the channel’s corporate sibling.

The Hallmark Keepsake Sweepstakes will promote the channel’s holiday programming, including four original world premiere movies (“Santa Jr.,” “Silent Night,” “Snow Queen” and “A Christmas Visitor”), and a special, “Christmas With Tony Bennett — Behind the Scenes.” The sweepstakes will offer a watch-and-win contest, and there will be instant-win prizes redeemable only at the Hallmark stores. In addition, online marketplace eBay will feature a tie-in instant-win game. Viewers will be able to get sweepstakes game pieces at Hallmark stores, in various national publications and online.

The channel was recently hit by approximately 130 layoffs, representing one-third of its workforce.