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TV Notes: WQED, Rhino sign deal for more doo wop shows

Tuesday, August 15, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Yesterday the PBS member station announced a deal with Rhino Entertainment to develop, produce and distribute doo wop programs. The deal includes a 13-episode series of doo wop performances before a live studio audience, long a dream of WQED director of on-air fund-raising T.J. Lubinsky.

Other programs include:

"Doo Wop Spirituals" -- religious-themed doo wop music.

"Doo Wop Dreams" -- an in-studio performance program executive produced by Atlantic Records founder and co-chairman/CEO Ahmet Ertegun that pairs original doo wop groups with contemporary artists.

"Three Doo Wop Tenors"-- a take-off on PBS's popular "Three Tenors" performances.

In addition there will be an R&B special of concert performances by 20 different artists and groups and a reunion show featuring new performances by early rock legends of the '50s, '60s and '70s, along with archival footage.

Whether these proposed programs ever reach the air will depend on WQED's ability to generate corporate funding. Robert Petrilli, WQED vice president and chief administrative officer and treasurer, said the station will move forward with each project once financing is secured.

Lubinsky said "Doo Wop 52," which aired last week, brought in $108,000, the same amount generated by "Doo Wop 51" a year ago. Lubinsky said he hopes to get the WQED-Rhino doo wop series on the air by December 2001 to keep the momentum going.

Along with plans to sell CDs and videos from the WQED programs, the development deal also calls for Rhino to assist WQED in making industry contacts.

"They're on the inside track in the music industry right there in Los Angeles," Lubinsky said. "It opens up the world to us for talent we otherwise wouldn't be able to reach."

Filming locations for the programs developed by WQED and Rhino have not been determined, but Petrilli said every effort will be made to utilize WQED's production facilities.

Lubinsky said the 13-episode series would "absolutely be taped here in our studios with the same general idea of taking the ['Doo Wop 50' and '51'] performances shot at the Benedum and taking it national."

While the deal with Rhino continues to develop, WQED's "Doo Wop Shop" will be renamed "WQED Oldies Drive In" when the station rolls out its new PBS test schedule in October. Lubinsky said "Drive In" will air Saturday at 6 p.m. (repeating at 11 p.m.) and feature an eclectic mix of doo wop and pop performers of the '50s and '60s. "Drive In" will include 10 episodes of "Hollywood A Go Go," a long-lost syndicated series that features Motown groups and early '60s groups.

"BULL" BULL: TNT promotes its new Wall Street drama "Bull" (tonight at 8, 9 and 10 p.m.) as the network's "first original series." Now, we know the brass at TNT were unhappy with last summer's "Crusade," but how can they erase the memory of it completely?

Julie Weitz, TNT executive vice president of original programming, parsed the definition of "first original series," saying "Crusade" was a spinoff of "Babylon 5," whereas "Bull" is entirely new.

Ah, semantics. Now if we could just get TNT to stop promoting its "world broadcast premieres" of movies, because as a cable network, TNT by definition is not a broadcaster.

Meanwhile, "Bull" star Elisabeth Rohm hopes to continue her recurring role as the cop Kate on "Angel." She said talks between the producers of the two shows will determine whether she's able to appear on both series.

BYE BYE, "AMERICAN HIGH": Fox has yanked the documentary series "American High" from its Wednesday night line-up after just two weeks. "Futurama" episodes take its place this week.

"American High," badly trounced by CBS's "Big Brother" and facing competition from The WB summer drama "Young Americans," will return at a yet-to-be-determined date, a Fox spokeswoman said. Expect that to be after the "Survivor"-"Big Brother" Wednesday night juggernaut has run its course.

CHANNEL SURFING: USA Network may have changed its mind about canceling "La Femme Nikita." Daily Variety reports USA and the show's production company, Warner Bros., have restarted talks for another season of 22 episodes ... Sally Field will appear in six episodes of "ER" as the mother of resident Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) ... Pittsburgh native Charles Grodin will replace Jimmy Tingle as commentator this fall on "60 Minutes II." (Owen)

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