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Syndicated shows turn to star power to boost ratings

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Syndicated programming came out of its slump last season with the ratings success of "Dr. Phil." But that one hit was surrounded by plenty of misses, most notably "The Caroline Rhea Show." Original syndicated drama series have almost completely disappeared.

This fall, additional star power is coming to daytime TV with talk shows hosted by Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Osbourne. Plus, "The Wayne Brady Show," which launched nationally a year ago, finally has a TV home in Pittsburgh.

Unlike prime-time network series, syndicated shows are sold to individual stations or station groups. Sometimes a station will pay cash for a syndicated show or sometimes it simply runs the syndicator's national commercials.

Below you'll find a comprehensive list of new fall syndicated programming. Unless otherwise noted, the show will air Mondays through Fridays; premiere dates follow in boldface type.

KDKA

Channel 2 will add a 9 a.m. newscast, but the station has not yet announced a date or anchors.

"Living It Up! With Ali & Jack" (10 a.m.; Sept. 15) may have the absolute worst promos of all time, but in Pittsburgh it has the good fortune not to air opposite "Live! With Regis and Kelly," in whose image "Living It Up!" was clearly created.

It's hosted by former newsman Jack Ford and comedian Ali Wentworth ("The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"), who claim their show will be different because -- and tell me if you've heard this before -- they are different from Regis and Kelly.

"All the morning shows are truly driven by the personalities of their hosts," Ford said at a July press conference in Hollywood. "Different personalities, different perspectives, different lifestyles, different backgrounds. ... We'll find what works for us, but it will be different."

Ford's smartest pledge: Wentworth won't bring her child onto the show, and he won't welcome his teenagers to the set.

To make way for "Living It Up!" "Martha Stewart Living" moves to WNPA, where it will continue to air at 10 a.m.

KDKA also will begin airing reruns of "The West Wing" (after midnight Sunday at 12:05 a.m.; Sept. 29).


WBGN

Low-power station WBGN adds only three new series this fall. "Go for It" (4:30 p.m. Wednesdays; Oct. 1) includes musical performances and "words of wisdom" from celebrities and athletes.

"Ultimate Choice" (4 p.m. Fridays; Sept. 5) shows teenagers experiencing extreme adventures.

"Raceline" (4:30 p.m. Saturdays; Oct. 11) is a newsmagazine show about NASCAR racing hosted by Joe Moore.


WCWB

"The Sharon Osbourne Show" (noon; Sept. 15) exists for a simple reason: She loves the spotlight.

"I [expletive deleted] love it," she said at a July press conference. "I am making every second last. I'm squeezing every second out of it."

In part that's because she lives in fear that the cancer she recently rid her body of will return. It's also borne out of her childhood interest in dancing and acting. And, she admits, she's a show-off.

Viewers accustomed to hearing Sharon's profane language bleeped on MTV's "The Osbournes" may be disappointed when they watch "The Sharon Osbourne Show."

"People came into my home when we brought the cameras into our home with MTV," Osbourne said. "That's the way I choose to live my life. But now I'm going into other people's homes, and my language does offend people, and I'm going out at a time of day where it's not appropriate to do that. It just wouldn't be a cool thing."

Other daytime shows on Channel 22 include reruns of "Home Improvement" (9:30 a.m.; Sept. 22), "M*A*S*H" (10 and 10:30 a.m.; beginning Monday), "Cheers" (1 and 1:30 p.m.; Sept. 8) and "Dharma & Greg" (5 and 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 22).

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (9 a.m.; Sept. 15) moves over from KDKA, and "Ricki Lake" (11 a.m.; Sept. 8) shifts over from WPGH. "Texas Justice" (9:30 a.m.; Sept. 8) joins the lineup.

"The Simpsons" stays put at 6 and 7 p.m. and will continue to be followed by "Will & Grace" (6:30 and 7:30 p.m.).


WNPA

Channel 19 picks up half-hour episodes of "Ripley's Believe It or Not" (4 and 4:30 p.m.; Sept. 15) that previously aired on cable's TBS.

"Pyramid" (1 p.m.; Sept. 15) jumps from WPXI to WNPA. Channel 19 has also scheduled reruns of "Roseanne" (1:30 p.m.; Sept. 15), "The Parkers" (2:30 p.m.; Sept. 15), "King of Queens" (6 and 7 p.m.; Sept. 15) and "Becker" (6:30 p.m.; Sept. 15).

"Everybody Loves Raymond" reruns will air at 7:30 and 11 p.m. and "That '70s Show" will move to 5 and 5:30 p.m.

"Unsolved Mysteries" (7 p.m. Sundays; Sept. 21) also joins the station's lineup.


WPGH

No big changes in "access" hour, 7 to 8 p.m. Channel 53 will stand pat with reruns of "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

"Just Shoot Me" (11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.; Sept. 15) and "The Drew Carey Show" (midnight; Sept. 15) reruns will continue to air.

"The X-Files" (5 p.m. Saturdays; Oct. 11) moves over from WNPA and also will air on WCWB (8 p.m. Saturdays; Oct. 11).

WPGH's new first-year show is "Starting Over" (11 a.m.; Sept. 8) from the producers of "The Real World." Women seeking to change their lives move into a house in Chicago together and have their attempts at reinvention and renewal broadcast as daytime entertainment across the country. "Life coaches" will give the women advice.

"We actually feel that this show takes sort of the best of what works with 'Dr. Phil' and 'Oprah' and puts it into more of a natural setting, which is a household," said executive producer Jon Murray.

Each woman will move into the house with specific goals and when those are achieved, usually in four to six weeks, she will move out and a new woman will move in.

Murray said "Starting Over" will tap into an underserved audience in reality television: Women over 25, who aren't featured on these shows as often as their younger counterparts.

The house won't include a TV set for understandable reasons, Murray said. "It's really boring watching people watch TV."

"Divorce Court" (1 and 1:30 p.m.; Sept. 15) moves over from KDKA, replacing a second run of "The Jerry Springer Show."


WPXI

At a July press conference, Ellen DeGeneres said launching her own talk show seemed like a natural progression.

"I've always done a Q&A after every one of my standup specials," she said. "I'm genuinely curious about people ... and I really do listen. And I think you have to listen."

She'll start listening to guests on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (11 a.m.; Sept. 8) next month. But she probably won't talk much about being gay.

"There's nothing to talk about. It's part of who I am," she said, adding that she has no intention of making her show or comedy political. "I can't say it will never come out of my mouth -- if I have to remind someone if they forget for a second and they want to set me up with a nephew or something ..."

Channel 11's other big daytime show is "The Wayne Brady Show" (1 p.m.; beginning Tuesday), which premiered nationally a year ago but is new to Pittsburgh this fall.

In its first season, Brady won the daytime Emmy award for outstanding talk show host. This season, the show will continue to feature a mix of comedy, music, celebrity guests and Brady's impersonations.

In late night, WPXI will air "Animal Rescue" (after midnight Fridays at 4:30 a.m., beginning Sept. 6, and after midnight Sundays at 3:35 a.m.), which shows emergency workers and ordinary people rescuing animals in distress.

The "Star Search"-like "The Talent Agency" (after midnight Sundays at 1:35 a.m.; Oct. 6) looks for rising stars who sing, dance and tell jokes. "Missing" (after midnight Sundays at 2:35 a.m.; Sept. 8) chronicles the cases of missing persons all over the United States.

Channel 11 also will pick up reruns of Showtime's canceled boxing drama, "Resurrection Boulevard" (after midnight Saturdays at 2:30 a.m.; Oct. 5).


WTAE

With the success of "Dr. Phil" (10 a.m.), which returns for its second season, Channel 4 has few slots available for syndicated shows.

Next month "The John Walsh Show" (2 a.m. Mondays, 1:05 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; Sept. 8) moves over from Channel 11 to replace "The Other Half," which was canceled.


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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