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Tuned In: Reruns offer best viewing options in otherwise dull syndicated season

Thursday, August 23, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

This fall's new syndicated offerings appear to be a decidedly underwhelming bunch. None of the talk shows take the genre in a new direction, nor are any likely to cause outrage of the "Dr. Laura" variety.

Among one-hour dramas, only the superhero show "Mutant X" has the potential to generate more than a shrug of interest.

If anything, reruns of prime-time series look more appetizing than ever with "Everybody Loves Raymond" airing twice daily and two different episodes of "The Practice" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" being broadcast on local stations every weekend.

By genre, here's a look at what to expect in syndicated programs airing this fall on local stations:

Talk

"Iyanla" (11 a.m. weekdays, WPXI) premiered last week to middling ratings across the country. Hosted by author/lecturer Iyanla Vanzant and executive produced by Barbara Walters, this daytime talk show deals with universal concerns -- life, love, personal finance, beauty -- with a single topic tackled each day.

Starring a former BET and MTV personality, "The Ananda Lewis Show" (1 p.m. weekdays, WPXI, premieres Sept. 10) promises "insight into multigenerational issues." In other words, it's just another talk show with a slightly younger-skewing target audience.

"The Other Half" (1:05 a.m. weeknights, WTAE, premieres Sept. 10) wants to give the TV audience another "View," this one from the male perspective. Dick Clark, Danny Bonaduce ("The Partridge Family"), Mario Lopez ("Saved by the Bell") and Dr. Jan Adams, a physician, host the daily testosterone-infused chat fest. "The Other Half" will air at approximately 2 a.m. after midnight on Mondays during the football season due to overruns from "Monday Night Football."

Relationship

Watch people get in touch with spirits of their deceased loved ones on "Crossing Over with John Edward" (5 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays, WPGH, premieres Monday). Already airing on Sci Fi Channel, the show features Edward communicating with the spirits of dead relatives of people in his studio audience. I'm sensing ... a "Saturday Night Live" parody coming soon.

If you're hungry for more wacky dating disasters, try "The 5th Wheel" (noon and 11:30 p.m. weekdays, WCWB, premieres Oct. 1). In this show, two men and two women who are out on a date are joined by one more person -- the fifth wheel! -- and then the nervous glances begin to fly.

There's still more dating action on "Rendez-View" (12:30 and 11 p.m. weekdays, WCWB, premieres Sept. 17), which takes the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" approach as host Greg Proops and a panel of celebrities comment on the couples in the dating videos.

Chris Hardwick, host of MTV's old game show "Singled Out," will be the cruise director for "Shipmates" (11:30 a.m. weekdays, WCWB, premieres Monday). Two singles are sent on a three-day, two-night Carnival Cruise where they either make a love connection or not.

In a weird hybrid of courtroom and relationship shows, author Michael Baisden hosts "Talk or Walk" (noon weekdays, WPGH, premieres Sept. 17). In this series, two people who have reached an impasse (friends, lovers, co-workers, neighbors) plead their case. Baisden and a studio audience then offer their opinion on whether reconciliation is possible.

News/Info

For all those investors kept awake at night pondering the dot-com bust, there's the weekly "Wall Street Journal Report" on WTAE. It premieres Sept 15. at 4 a.m. and will air at 2:30 a.m. thereafter in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Drama

Don't confuse this show with the "X-Men" movie, though the promoters of "Mutant X" (9 p.m. Saturdays, WCWB, premieres Oct. 6) probably wouldn't mind if you do. John Shea ("Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman") stars as a multimillionaire mutant who tries to help other mutants master their abilities while a rival group tries to eliminate them from the population. Nope, sounds nothing like the rivalry between the characters played by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in last summer's movie. Not a bit.

Adrian Paul ("Highlander") returns to syndicated series television as an alien bounty hunter sent to earth to capture escapees from an alien prison in "Tracker" (midnight Saturdays and 2:30 a.m. after midnight Sundays, WPGH, premieres Oct. 20)

Real-life firefighters tell their stories in "The Bravest" (1:35 a.m. after midnight Saturdays, WPXI, premieres Sept. 29).

Courtroom

The "Judge Judy" trend appears to be abating. There's only one new entry in this year's battle of the black robes, "Texas Justice" (6 p.m. weekdays, WNPA, premieres Sept. 17), which features "fiery Houston lawman" Larry Joe Doherty presiding over disputes. But in the same press release that brands Larry Joe "fiery," it promises to show "justice doesn't have to be delivered in a mean-spirited fashion." So he's "fiery" but not "mean-spirited." Got it, pardner? (And since it is Texas-style justice, will viewers be treated to an execution during sweeps?)

Game shows

With daytime versions of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Weakest Link" in development for next fall, there's only one entry in the game show genre this year, a revival of "Card Sharks" (1 and 1:30 p.m. weekdays, WCWB, premieres Sept. 17). Hosted by comedian Pat Bullard, the "High-Low" card game returns with a jackpot of $50,000.

Reruns

WNPA gets the best batch of off-network series this fall, with "King of the Hill" airing weekdays at 6:30 p.m. starting Sept. 17. Older episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond" air weeknights at 7 and 7:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 24. And "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which will air weeknights on FX beginning Sept. 24, will air twice a week -- two different episodes -- on WNPA (6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays) beginning Sept. 29.

At WPGH, the "Friends" reruns will air weeknights at 7 with "Seinfeld" at 7:30. "Just Shoot Me" settles in for a double-run at 6 and 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays starting Sept. 17. Reruns of "Mad TV" will air weeknights at 1:30 a.m. beginning the same week.

Sister station WCWB will air a double-run of "Simpsons" episodes during the 7 p.m. hour weeknights. Reruns of the Saturday morning show "City Guys," part of NBC's "TNBC" block of teen shows, will air weekdays at 5 p.m. starting Sept. 17. "Profiler" airs at 2 p.m. Saturdays starting Sept. 15.

WTAE will air old episodes of "The Practice" on the weekends, with first season episodes (sans Lara Flynn Boyle) Saturdays at 11:35 p.m. beginning Sept. 29 and third-season episodes Sundays at 11:35 p.m. starting Sept. 30.

WPXI offers "Cops" after midnight Saturdays and Sundays. "Cops" airs at 2:35 a.m. and 3:05 a.m. after midnight Saturdays. Additional airings will be 11:35 p.m. Sunday, followed that night by broadcasts at 12:05 and 3:35 a.m.


You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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