Retro Nets Get Original

In a first for both networks, TV Land and Nick at Nite last week released a slate of original shows and specials to supplement their schedules of classic programming.

TV Land and Nick at Nite executive vice president and general manager Larry Jones said both networks will remain true to their credos of airing vintage fare, but will feature more original shows that he believes will help expand the brands, while still appealing to the channels' core viewers.

"It's about helping the network build a deeper bond in relationship with our viewers on their classic television shows that they've always loved," he said.

Despite the new directions, originals won't factor significantly into either network's weekly schedule. Originals will only take up one hour per week on Nick at Nite, with the previously announced animated show Fatherhood, produced by Bill Cosby, accounting for half of that time.

TV Land, according to Jones, would commit one night to original fare.

Jones said TV Land — whose total-day delivery of in its key demo of adults 25-to-54 demo has never been higher, despite a 13% falloff in year-to-date primetime household ratings —is looking at several new original show concepts, including: Living in TV Land, which takes a look at a day in the life of classic TV stars; TV Land Real Characters, a "mockumentary" series about famous TV characters; and Table Read, which will reunite show casts around a script reading.

Also on tap: the David Steinberg Project, a Fernwood 2-Night-type look at Hollywood; Hello Out There, a comedy being developed internally about the behind-the-scenes antics of running a classic TV network; and TV Land Collectibles, an Antiques Road Show-meets-classic TV memorabilia show.

In March, the service will air its second annual TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV, as well as several new specials, notably TV Land Moguls, a six-part, Merv Griffin-hosted event chronicling the medium's pioneering producers.

In addition to Fatherhood, Nick at Nite is considering: Alf's Hit Talk Show, featuring the popular 1980s alien character; Zen & Buster, a Kelsey Grammer-produced vehicle about Hollywood life as seen through the eyes of dogs; and Exploding Baloney, a hidden camera show featuring parents and teachers playing good-natured practical jokes on children.

Also in production for the network: Return Engagement, a comedy about retired actors who inherit a Melrose Place-type apartment complex; My Man Marty, showcasing a lost, ahead-of-its-time sitcom that finds a slot on TV; and The Tommy Lynch Project, a behind-the-scenes comedy about a hidden-camera dating show.

A Happy Days Reunion
special and a six-hour miniseries examining television's most extraordinary moments are also cued up for 2004.

Jones also said the networks will continue to remain aggressive in acquiring classic TV shows. TV Land will bow in 2004 The Carol Burnett Show, The Flip Wilson Show and Green Acres; while Nick at Nite will introduce Who's The Boss? and Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.