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Columns
Familiar faces play new roles in fall syndicated shows

Thursday, August 29, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Syndication is in a slump. There's no doubt about that.

With ratings for "The Oprah Winfrey Show" continuing to decline and no hits in the action-drama genre, all hopes are pinned on "Dr. Phil."

He's viewed as the successor to Oprah -- on whose show he's made weekly house calls -- and station owners hope Dr. Phil will be the cure for the low ratings that ail them.

Unlike prime-time series that are programmed in specific time slots by the networks, syndicated shows are sold to local stations that choose when to air them.

In years past, syndicated hits ranged from the sleazy ("Jerry Springer") to the entertaining ("The Rosie O'Donnell Show") to the exciting ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"). But none of this fall's returning shows are generating any buzz. Could one of this fall's new crop fill the void? Read on to see the local stations' lineups and judge for yourself.

KDKA

The new Meredith Vieira-hosted daytime version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" premieres on Channel 2 at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 16. It's essentially the same as the late great Regis Philbin-hosted prime-time show, only in a half-hour format.

Producers promise it will be faster-paced, and the "fastest finger" competition has been eliminated to get to the hot seat quicker.

"Divorce Court," which had aired on sister station WNPA, will air on both channels, showing up on KDKA at 9 a.m.

"Weakest Link," previously on WNPA, moves to 2:07 a.m. weeknights on KDKA beginning Sept. 16.

Late-night Saturday begins with reruns of "The X-Files" at 11:35 p.m., followed by "Providence" reruns at 12:35 a.m. starting Oct. 5. "Extra" airs at 1:35 a.m., and a new sci-fi drama, "Starhunter," airs at 2:35 a.m. beginning Sept. 14. Michael Pare stars in this show, set in the year 2275, that uses the final frontier as a stand-in for the American "Old West," which makes it oddly similar to Fox's upcoming "Firefly."

WBGN

Pittsburgh's low-power independent station will stick with "I Spy" and "Bonanza" from 6 to 7 p.m.

Shows new to prime time include "Hot Hawaii" (10 p.m. Tuesdays starting Oct. 1), a weekly tour of the state's hot spots, and "Nitro Warriors" (8 p.m. Saturdays starting Oct. 5), a drag racing show.

"We the Jury" is a new courtroom show that focuses on the jurors' deliberations. It airs at 1 p.m. weekdays and 9 p.m. Mondays. The series also will air on an as-needed basis on WPXI.

WCWB

If you thought "Will & Grace" had too much sexual innuendo for prime time, wait till you catch it at 7:30 weeknights on Channel 22 beginning Sept. 23. It's one of the new sitcoms entering syndication this fall. Another is "Dharma & Greg" (5:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 23).

Channel 22 also will offer a sitcom block from 9 a.m. to noon that includes "The Parent 'Hood," "3rd Rock from the Sun," a double shot of "Roseanne," "Suddenly Susan" and "Spin City."

That's followed by yet another TV psychic on "Beyond with James Van Praagh" (noon beginning Sept. 16), who claims to cross over to the spirit world and communicate with the dear departed.

At 1 p.m. it's "The Rob Nelson Show," which premieres Sept. 16. Nelson previously hosted "The Full Nelson" on Fox News Channel.

WCWB's 10 p.m. to midnight block of dating shows -- "Blind Date," "Elimidate" and "The 5th Wheel" -- remains intact.

Two new hourlong adventure shows air Saturdays. "Adventure Inc." (2 p.m. beginning Oct. 5) stars Michael Biehn as a legendary explorer, and "John Woo's Once a Thief" (8 p.m. beginning Oct. 5) features Ivan Sergei ("Jack & Jill") and Nicholas Lea ("The X-Files") as part of an elite law enforcement agency.

In accordance with The WB's schedule, Channel 22 will air repeats of "Smallville" at 5 p.m. Sundays beginning Sept. 15 followed by reruns of the new drama "Everwood" at 6 p.m. starting Sept. 22 and first-season episodes of "Gilmore Girls" at 7 p.m. beginning Sept. 15.

WNPA

The access hour -- the time between 7 and 8 p.m. -- gets a makeover with "Everybody Loves Raymond" at 7 and new-to-syndication "That '70s Show" at 7:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 16. Another episode of "That '70s Show" airs at 6:30 p.m.

Channel 19 begins the day with a docket of courtroom shows, including "The People's Court" (10 a.m.), "Judge Mathis" (11 a.m.), "Texas Justice" (noon) and "Divorce Court" (12:30 p.m.). Another court show, "Celebrity Justice," will air at midnight Mondays through Saturdays starting Monday.

"Life Moments" begins airing at 1 p.m. Sept. 9. It's hosted by Asha Blake ("Later Today"), who introduces first-person-narrative true-life stories that include "the miracle of birth, the romance of weddings [and] the excitement of reunions."

It's followed by "Cosby" at 2 p.m. and new-to-syndication "The Hughleys" at 2:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 16.

At 11 p.m., "Married ... With Children" reruns will be followed by "King of the Hill."

WPGH

The big news in syndication on Pittsburgh's Fox affiliate is ... there's no big news. The station's 6 to 8 p.m. block of "Friends," "Frasier" and "Seinfeld" reruns remains intact.

"Crossing Over with John Edward" moves to 10 a.m. weekdays.

"Good Day Live," the national version of a local Los Angeles morning show, airs at noon beginning Sept. 16. Imagine a wacky morning drive radio show on TV and you've got a pretty good idea what to expect on this chatfest.

Two shows that previously aired on WTAE move over to WPGH: "Maury Povich" will air at 5 p.m. weekdays on Channel 53 beginning Sept. 9 and "Judge Hatchett" will air at 2 and 2:30 p.m. starting the same day.

"Jenny Jones" gets downgraded from midnight on WNPA to 2 a.m. on WPGH beginning Sept. 2.

Reruns of "Will & Grace" air at 11:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 23. "Just Shoot Me" airs at midnight and 12:30 a.m. starting the same day.

At midnight Saturdays, edited-for-broadcast reruns of HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" will air beginning Sept. 14.

"Adventure Inc." (11:30 p.m.) and "John Woo's Once a Thief" (12:30 a.m.) will be repeated on WPGH Sunday nights beginning Oct. 6.

WPXI

Caroline Rhea takes over for talk show host Rosie O'Donnell, but will viewers follow? "The Caroline Rhea Show" airs at 11 a.m. weekdays on WPXI beginning Monday. Her premiere week guests include Matthew Perry, Paula Abdul and Tim Matheson.

Donny Osmond resurrects the old "$25,000 Pyramid." The new "Pyramid" -- same game play, sleeker set -- will air at 1 and 1:30 p.m. weekdays starting Sept. 16. Up to $25,000 is up for grabs each day, and at the end of the season there will be a $100,000 championship tournament.

"America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh gets a talk show, which will air at 3:05 a.m. weeknights beginning Sept. 9. A special edition of "The John Walsh Show" will air Sept. 11 at 4 p.m. on PCNC. It will include an interview with WPXI reporter Rick Earle about covering the crash of Flight 93.

After midnight Sundays, Channel 11 will air "The Outer Limits" at 12:30 a.m. starting Sept. 22, followed by "best of" episodes of the canceled "Relic Hunter."

"Livin' Large" -- a young, hip "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" -- will air after midnight Saturdays at 1:30 a.m. beginning Sept. 21.

A new religious program is paying for air time on Channel 11. "Joel Osteen" begins airing at 7:30 a.m. Sundays this weekend.

WPXI's cable outlet, PCNC, will add "Metropolitan Business Review," which will air 9 a.m. Sundays beginning Sept. 8. Lawyer Neil Forgarty will host the program, which will include national news highlights in the business world from a local angle.

WTAE

Channel 4's got the biggest name in new syndication: "Dr. Phil." His hour of advice will air weekdays at 10 a.m. beginning Sept. 16.

A "life strategist" (he has a doctorate in clinical psychology), Dr. Phil McGraw takes a no-nonsense approach to relationships that's reminiscent of Dr. Laura in its bluntness, albeit without the nasty tone or controversial statements.

"As direct as I am, I really do think I deal with people with empathy," McGraw said at a July press conference, adding that there's a difference between genuineness and brutal honesty. "There are times that it would be possible to just be very unkind with someone when you don't need to do that. I try to be very careful about that."

Entertainment news show "Access Hollywood" moves out of late night and into the 12:30 p.m. time slot following the noon news. That allows "The Other Half" to move up to 12:35 a.m., followed by reruns of "Cheers" at 1:35 a.m. beginning Monday.

"She Spies," a spoofy comedy-adventure starring Natasha Henstridge that had a low-rated trial run this summer on NBC, airs at 12:35 a.m. late-night Saturdays beginning Sept. 21.

The station's Saturday morning syndicated fare begins with "Beautiful Homes and Great Estates" at 5 a.m., followed by "Famous Homes" at 5:30 a.m., "Ron Hazelton House Calls" at 6 a.m. and "Rebecca's Garden" at 6:30 a.m.

On Sundays, "Wall Street Journal Report" moves to 6 a.m. effective Sept. 15 and "The Chris Matthews Show" premieres at 6:30 a.m. Sept. 22. Matthews, best known for "Hardball" on MSNBC, will host this weekly news and commentary program.


Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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