Syndicated Strip Showrunners: Michael Weisman

Dec 6, 2004  •  Post A Comment

One of the biggest assets had at his disposal going into the launch of “The Jane Pauley Show” turned out also to be one of his biggest challenges.

Jane Pauley, former co-host of “Dateline NBC” and “Today,” is one of the most recognizable American newswomen-a definite plus in terms of catching viewers’ attention. Ms. Pauley’s reputation was also helpful in attracting an experienced staff, said Mr. Weisman, the show’s executive producer.

The catch was that Ms. Pauley is known as a newswoman, but she was getting ready to host something much different from news: a daytime talk show. No longer behind a desk, she would be on stage in front of a studio audience. The series’ format was designed to incorporate entertainment, information, fun and relaxation, Mr. Weisman said.

“She did not want to do news,” he said. “Our challenge was to get the audience to see Jane in a new way. Since she was on `Dateline,’ they were used to seeing her doing news stories. We knew it would take awhile for people to get used to seeing her do different stories.”

Getting Ms. Pauley used to the new TV terrain has been crucial as well. “When you have a single host you have to make that host comfortable,” said Mr. Weisman, who has produced TV coverage of such sporting events as the World Series and the Olympics-both of which, he said, allow for more prep and lead time than does a daily talk show.

At the same time, “From everything I’ve been able to find out about single-hosted talk shows, the host has to just by definition take the lead,” he said. Though the production experiences the usual disagreements and the setup is a new one for Ms. Pauley, she’s a pro, Mr. Weisman said: She “comes out and hits her marks.”

Audiences apparently have not adjusted so quickly. NBC Universal secured two-year station deals for “Jane” by selling it as one of the best bets for success, but the show has not lived up to ratings expectations. It premiered the week of Aug. 30 with a 1.6 national household rating and pulled a 1.5 the week ended Nov. 14, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Mr. Weisman said he watches the ratings but mostly just looks “to see what shows resonate with the public.”

One thing he noticed is viewers are tougher customers than ever. “People tend to make their judgments very quickly, and then it’s a challenge to get them to come back once they leave,” he said. “That’s been true of television for a long time, but probably more than ever now.”

Still, he calls his first crack at showrunner for a daily syndicated show “invigorating.”

“The great thing for me at this point in my life is every day your brain is working and you’re learning something and there’s a never-ending amount of variety in your life,” he said.