Veteran Shows Getting New Bells and Whistles

Aug 23, 2004  •  Post A Comment

A little tinkering on “Jeopardy!” before last season, when the limit on winning streaks was lifted, helped propel the series to the top of the charts.

“Jeopardy!’s” ratings climb was concurrent with its champion Ken Jennings’ streak, which began in June.

Now syndicators are hoping some fine-tuning during the off-season will benefit their shows as well. Series ranging from “Divorce Court” to “Access Hollywood” to “Wheel of Fortune” will unveil new elements to their shows ranging from faces to segments to sets.

NBC Universal may be offering the most changes to its veterans, beginning with new faces playing host on “Access Hollywood,” “Starting Over” and “Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo.” Billy Bush steps up to the plate as co-host of “Access Hollywood,” joining newsmagazine pillar Nancy O’Dell at the forefront of the studio’s top syndicated series. The duo officially began its pairing during the Olympics.

Reality series “Starting Over” has both a new face and a new address. The series departed Chicago to take up residence in Los Angeles, and new life coaches including former syndicated talk show host Iyanla Vanzant will enter the scene.

On the weekly front, “Wall Street Journal Report” changes its name to “Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo.” Ms. Bartiromo previously hosted CNBC’s “Market Week With Maria Bartiromo” and takes over hosting duties on the series from Consuelo Mack.

“Maria is one of the leading, if not the best reporter covering Wall Street and the financial markets on a daily basis,” said Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. “Putting Maria alongside the editors of The Wall Street Journal will make this series must-watch TV for financial viewers.”

Meanwhile, “Rebecca’s Garden” will offer new segments and a new set at WXYZ-TV in Detroit, where it is taped.

Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” will have its own new co-host: Mark Steines, who was promoted from weekend anchor.

Newsmagazine “Inside Edition,” from King World, will become the first national show to go to tapeless shooting and editing with new Sony XD cameras. In addition, the series will offer new graphics and three new reporters, including Jim Moret in Los Angeles and Kim Dean from Orlando, Fla.

King World’s long-running game show “Wheel of Fortune” will offer a revitalized look by adding high-technology elements, including an updated Bonus Wheel that will complement the main wheel by using color kinetic graphics and LED lighting systems. It will feature Plexiglas and polished chrome, and will display 1.5 million colors of light that change and sparkle with every turn of the wheel, with the intent of bringing the entire set to life.

In addition, two popular game elements have been expanded, providing contestants with more opportunities to win cash and prizes. Two “Gift Tag”-sponsored prize items will appear on the wheel, while the Mystery Wedge will include prizes ranging from cars and electronics to other high-caliber surprises such as SonyStyle electronics, Southwest Airlines vacations and shopping sprees at Amazon.com and Bloomingdale’s.

Among court shows, Twentieth Television’s “Divorce Court” will add new elements to the program, including one titled “Dear Judge Mablean,” in which Judge Mablean Ephriam answers questions from viewers.

“This new and exciting element allows me the opportunity to respond to e-mails and letters from the viewers. Their comments and questions range from, `How did you get started in your career,’ to, `I disagree with something you said about deadbeat dads,”‘ Ms. Ephriam said.