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Mar 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

‘Big Brother’ Casting Under Way

CBS has started casting for a fourth edition of Big Brother. Big Brother, which puts a group of strangers together in a house and films their every move, has aired the past three summers on CBS. Big Brother is produced by Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner Productions in association with Endemol USA.

ABC Pulls ‘Front Line’ From Prime-Time Schedule: ABC has pulled Profiles From the Front Line, its unscripted show about U.S. troops in Afghanistan, from its Thursday night schedule this week. Instead, ABC will air two reruns of Whose Line Is it Anyway? from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET). ABC will also air two reruns of Whose Line on Thursday, April 3, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., replacing Extreme Makeover, and one episode on Thursday, April 10, from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Oscars Rating Lowest Ever: The 75th Anniversary Academy Awards averaged 33.05 million viewers last night-making it the lowest-rated broadcast of the awards ever in total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research fast national ratings. It was down 21 percent from last year’s broadcast, which had 41.8 million total viewers.

The Academy Awards were also down 22 percent in adults 18 to 49 with a 12.5 rating compared with a 16.1 rating last year. ABC estimates that 62 million viewers watched some part of the 31/2-hour show, which ended with the musical Chicago’s winning best picture. The Academy Awards won its time slot in all measures and is the No. 1 program of the week in total viewers, adults 18 to 49, adults 18 to 34 and adults 25 to 54.

The Oscars, often called the Super Bowl for women, has traditionally been one of the few big TV events that can draw mass audiences. That dominance appears to be slipping-the finale of Fox’s reality show Joe Millionaire in February outdrew this year’s Oscars by 7 million viewers. Joe Millionaire’s finale pulled 40 million viewers and a 20.4 rating and 40 share in the adults 18 to 49 demo. However, some of the lower ratings could be attributed to Iraq war coverage on other networks. The show last night had the highest frequency of viewers tuning in and out of the program in the history of the Academy Awards, according to ABC.

Court TV Announces New Specials: Court TV will examine DNA investigation, producing a series of documentaries with attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld and their Innocence Project, a pro bono legal assistance organization that has been instrumental in overturning more than 100 criminal convictions on the basis of DNA evidence.

First up, From the Files of the Innocence Project: Marvin Anderson, a documentary hosted by actor Richard Dreyfuss that will recount the story of a man who spent 15 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.

In addition, Court is going forward this year with two Smoking Gun specials based on TheSmokingGun.com, the popular Web site, owned by the network, that specializes in posting high-profile public documents. The second of the two specials, set for this December, will be a year-end award show.

The Innocence and Smoking Gun specials are part of a slate of new series, pilots and specials announced by Court executives at a pre-upfront event for press Monday in Manhattan.

That slate is part of the estimated $180 million the network intends to spend on programming during the next two years, with 70 percent to 75 percent of the budget going to original programming, according to Henry Schleiff, Court’s chairman and CEO.

In last year’s upfront the network took in just “south of $50 million,” according to Tom Olson, Court’s senior VP of advertising sales. This year, Court will be up at least 50 percent over 2002, he predicted.

The network also is in talks with NBC to repeat its successful reverse repurposing experiment of last summer, in which the Peacock Network aired episodes of Forensic Files, Court’s signature show, which has a 40 new-episode order this year, Mr. Schleiff said. After Forensic aired on NBC, its ratings jumped 18 percent to 20 percent and “stayed there,” he added.

The network’s other projects, many of which have already been previewed for TelevisionWeek readers (March 17), include:

How Did It Happen?, a new half-hour series that looks at the how and why of crashes, accidents and catastrophes.

Masterminds, a new half-hour series focusing on how criminals pull off seemingly impossible crimes.

Caper Challenge (working title), a reality game in which teams of contestants race to re-create famous heists.

Heist!, a new half-hour series about famous bank robberies and museum thefts.

Hollywood Justice (working title), about what happens “when good stars go bad,” as Art Bell, Court’s programming executive VP, characterized this new half-hour series about the legal difficulties of celebrities.

House of Clues, a pilot for a series in which two teams compete to profile people based on the everyday items found in their homes.

Uniform Justice, a one-hour special that’s also a series pilot examining the workings of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Imposter, a half-hour special that’s also a series pilot that focuses on notorious con artists.

Other specials on the Court slate include Railroaded in Texas (working title), a one-hour documentary about the wrongful convictions of 46 African Americans who were alleged to be drug dealers; The Great Gardner Art Heist, a one-hour special about an art theft from a Boston museum; and The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: Investigation Reopened (working title), a new forensics-based investigation of the assassination.

“We are fundamentally about puzzle-solving, the mystery, the investigation,” said Mr. Schleiff, who called Court a “strong, clear brand” with targeted, “attentive” viewers.

“Are we the single answer to the advertisers’ dreams, problems? No,” Mr. Schleiff said, but Court TV is “part of the puzzle.”

The network will continue its “Nick/Nick at Nite existence,” he added, telecasting trials during the daytime and focusing on original programming at night during prime time.

Goodall Institute, Discovery Develop Series: Discovery Communications and the Jane Goodall Institute, founded in 1977 by the wildlife biologist famous for her work with African chimpanzees, have formed an exclusive multiyear partnership that includes the development of on-air specials for Animal Planet.