Fox TV Stations Will Spend Their Summer Break in a Test Pattern

Summer is coming, and unlike school kids, Fox Television Stations will be busy with one thing: tests. This summer, the station group hopes two new talk shows featuring married couples generate some heat.

The first show, featuring Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari, will premiere on July 6 and air for four weeks on select Fox owned stations, including WNYW New York and KTTV Los Angeles. The Fox Television Stations will produce The Boris and Nicole Show itself, under the leadership of Stephen Brown, FTS executive VP of programming and development. Ianthe Jones, who was coexecutive producer of Queen Latifah and supervising producer on Ricki Lake, will executive produce.

“Of course, Boris and Nicole are beautiful, but what we really liked about them is that they are married, they’ve been together for ten years and they have two children,” says Brown. “They are just normal, nice, funny, interesting people. Having a show where you have husband-and-wife views on the same topic is a great way to approach talk.”

The second show along that same vein will feature Ice-T and Coco, who previously starred in their own reality show, Ice Loves Coco, on E! Ice & Coco will air for three weeks on select Fox owned stations starting Aug. 3. Telepictures Productions, the first-run production arm of Warner Bros. Television, will produce, with Candi Carter executive producing.

Fox decided to spend this summer testing married couples because it’s something that has not been done in syndication. In previous summers, the station group tested programs including The Real, Bethenny, The Kris Jenner Show and Wendy Williams, with varying levels of success.

“Why are married couples interesting to us? Part of it is because we did a panel show this year that worked in The Real,” says Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming, FTS. “We then saw about 100 pitches for panel shows, as if now that’s an easy thing to do. For so long, panel shows couldn’t get a pulse because too much could go wrong with them. There was too much chemistry that people had to create. Married couples should already have that chemistry.”

“We’re not going to produce a show that looks and feels like a typical talk show,” says Brown. “If we do that, we’re setting ourselves up for the same kind of failure that other tests and shows have experienced. I think shows like Wendy Williams and TMZ Live work because they engage the viewers in a more authentic way.”

While neither show is guaranteed a slot on the Fox stations after these summer tests, Cicha says, “we always have room for hits.”

Fox also is moving away from the idea that all syndicated shows need to air nationally.

“All bets are off and to think that there’s one particular [business] plan is a mistake,” Cicha says. “Economics and timing will play into this, as will shelf space.”

Along those lines, Fox also is considering bringing back a show it tested last summer. Hollywood Today Live, an entertainment magazine that originates online, is expected to return this fall on both Fox owned stations.

Similarly, Fox is sticking with its weekly half-hour, Laughs, which features stand-up comedians performing around the country. That show was ordered last summer as a test, but it’s worked so well that Fox plans to keep it on for the foreseeable future.

“We’re still working on it,” says Cicha. “It’s not quite the same show as when we started. We’re always experimenting with how we can make it better. We think that’s worth it.”

Fox also is working on a couple of pilots and it continues to tinker with Dish Nation, its entertainment talk show, produced by Studio City in conjunction with FTS, that features drive-time radio disc jockeys from around the country chatting about the pop culture news of the day.

“We are going to more junkets and more red carpets, and we’re getting more stars in the studios,” says Brown. “We’re making that into a new model of talk show.”

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.