‘Stooges’ Earns Weekday Strip

May 16, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Look out Katie, Matt and Al, here comes Moe, Larry and Curly.

Spurred by early success in luring young viewers on weekends, Spike TV has found the noive to expand its “Three Stooges Slap Happy Hour” into a daily strip at 9 a.m. starting June 6.

Spike acquired the rights to 130 remastered theatrical shorts by the Stooges in December and launched them with an April Fool’s Day marathon the network called “Fools Rule.” Ratings jumped during the marathon, with males 18 to 49 up 150 percent from the same time period a year ago. At the same time, the average age of viewers for the marathon was 36, a full 10 years younger than the network’s normal average age.

“It told us that in order to get the channel to have a younger profile, run 70-year-old theatrical shorts,” said Robert Friedman, senior VP of programming at Spike.

On Spike, the Stooges’ appeal seems concentrated among male teens and men 35 to 49. “That makes us think fathers are passing along the Stooge legacy to their kids,” said Mr. Friedman, “and that clearly everybody can enjoy it.”

Even before Spike began airing the “Slap Happy Hour,” Mr. Friedman said, the Stooges had an awareness level of 96 percent among men 18 to 49, one of the highest levels of any property the network ever tested. After it began airing, “The viewers immediately associated it with Spike, which confirmed our suspicion that it’s exactly the right product to have on our channel,” he said.

Spike is a network for men, and the show is skewing about 70 percent male. “Someone once said half the world loves the Three Stooges and the other half wonders why. And typically that follows along male/female lines, though we are finding there are a nice number of women watching, and we’re happy about that.”

The Stooges have been appearing in broadcast syndication and cable. They last ran on AMC, which has since moved toward a more contemporary positioning.

Spike is making sure those “nyuk, nyuk, nyuks” of yesteryear are packaged to have a modern appeal.

Niels Schuurmans, senior VP and creative director for the Spike Creative Group, called the Stooges the original “Jackass.” “No one smacked themselves around like the good old Stooges,” he said.

He said the property resonated with staffers at the station. “The young writer-producers, they’re huge Stooge fans, and everybody was really excited and really psyched to have some fun with them and make them contemporary.”

With each of the theatrical two-reelers running 17 to 19 minutes, “We certainly didn’t want to edit them short,” Mr. Friedman said. Instead, the network created 61 episodes of the “Slap Happy Hour,” featuring two shorts and filled out with interstitial material created internally by Spike using clips from Stooges shorts.

“We basically had a writer and an editor just go through all the shorts and come up with different funny scenarios and concepts,” Mr. Schuurmans said.

Among the ideas that have been produced are a Stooges “You make the call”; commercials offering fake products, including a gadget that prevents pokes in the eye; Stooge Eye for the Straight Guy; Stooge tips for picking up women; and a Stooge version of “Fear Factor,” called “Fear Factory,” showing the trio on the job.

There are also trivia segments and mockumentaries in which celebrities such as Abe Vigoda and Jimmy Walker talk about the impact the Stooges had on their life and career.

“There was so much material to work with,” Mr. Schuurmans said.

After six weeks of airing on weekend mornings, through May 8, “Three Stooges Slap Happy Hour” averaged 348,000 viewers, up 23 percent from a year ago and pulled a 0.6 rating for the last half-hour, May 8.

Mr. Schuurmans expects it to continue to perform strongly as a strip, replacing some of the network’s automotive shows.

“For the summer, people are around. They want something a little different. We thought it would be fun to run the Stooges every day,” he said. “There are only so many shows that make you laugh out loud on a reliably consistent basis, and if laughter is the best medicine, then we’re performing a valuable health service.”

And if anyone disagrees, Mr. Schuurmans said, “I’ll moiderize them.”