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'Bee'-Keeper Horowitz's Fall Plans

A hectic summer for Juma Entertainment President/Executive Producer Bob Horowitz got a lot busier when NBC picked up The Singing Bee for a fall run after just a single airing. As Bee creator and e.p., Horowitz must now figure out how to keep the summer success humming into the new season.

Juma's docket also includes an interactive golf special for CBS on August 18, a Celebrity Skifest that airs in December and a pilot at A&E centered around Inked personality Thomas Pendleton.

The former head of International Management Group's U.S. television arm, Horowitz spoke to Ben Grossman about Bee, the threat of a Hollywood work stoppage and how he can make you smarter than your golf buddies.

Were you surprised when NBC gave you a fall order after one episode?

Yes and no. It was just [NBC co-chief] Ben Silverman being decisive. I don't think I've ever seen a network move that quickly—we knew within 24 hours of the July 10 airing.

Were you concerned when former entertainment chief Kevin Reilly left NBC?

Not really. He was supportive, but the big champions were [alternative programming execs] Craig Plestis and Jayson Dinsmore. We weren't Kevin's show, we were Craig and Jayson's show.

Are there changes in store for the new cycle?

What we want to do is keep that which is the major beat of the show, that fun variety element with the game component. At the same time, the challenge is to figure out what the surprise is every week that makes you want to tune in. Who might be the musical guest, for instance? There could be some more theme shows—holiday specials, for instance.

NBC aired new episodes on back-to-back nights last week. Are you worried about over-saturation?

I'm not worried at all. I think NBC is very selective in how they want to use it. They had an opportunity for an hour slot last (Monday) and we got an excellent number. This is not something you want to have on the air more than two times a week. I would love to see us get compared to a Deal or No Deal franchise at NBC.

How does the move to the fall look?

I am a big fan of Dancing with the Stars and that we are going to be opposite the results show starting in October is a great challenge. Competition is good. It makes you have your game face on Monday through Friday.

Do you watch the Fox show?

Did I watch the first episode? Yes. The second one? Yes. I think I watched one other one. We are taping it in the office. It is an entirely different show. Wayne Brady is an excellent host; they do a good show, but I'd rather have the host we have and the set we have. I believe there's room for two lyrics shows. I just think we have the better one.

Is a potential work stoppage an opportunity for producers of unscripted TV?

I think so. Any time you have a network looking to have content provided quickly—and that's really the name of the game, to have it quick and affordable—if you can be positioned to deliver that, you are ahead of the game. I hate to have it at the writers' expense, but for companies like us it can be a great opportunity for new business. Given that potential strike, we are putting more resources in development.

Do you think there will be a work stoppage?

No. I have definitely been wrong before, but I think when it comes eyeball to eyeball that management doesn't want to lose talent, and writers don't want to lose money and jobs. I believe, at that eleventh hour, some agreement will be made.

You're producing this Rules of Golf special for CBS. What makes this different?

We didn't want to do just another golf tournament. This actually has some elements of Singing Bee. The rules of golf have been around for 500 years, so what about a special that tests people about the rules of golf? We do a Q&A of 12 major questions, but it's a funny show. It has its rules you will take from the show and become very obnoxious as part of your Sunday foursome because you will know what everyone else doesn't.

What is the status of the Thomas Pendleton Project at A&E?

We still don't have the green light yet, but they are so into Thomas. A week ago, [an A&E exec] flew out for a meeting with him and they spent a whole afternoon dissecting the show and finding out the next step. Do they order it as a series or is there another concept? The bottom line is A&E is into Thomas.