Slow Syndie Season Yields Just Two New Series

Why This Matters: New first-run series have been in short supply for the past several seasons.

It’s another slow season for syndication, with only two new first-run shows, one off-cable series and one off-network sitcom, coming to stations this fall.

CBS Television Distribution is bringing out Face the Truth, from Jay McGraw’s Stage 29 Productions and starring Vivica A. Fox, while Debmar-Mercury announced its new court show, Caught in Providence, back in February. Two former heads of major syndicators — Barry Wallach and Joe diSalvo — have cleared True Crime Files off Investigation Discovery in nearly the entire country, while Disney-ABC Domestic Television is launching this year’s only sitcom, Black-ish.

In the meantime, all of last year’s newcomers — CTD’s DailyMailTV, Twentieth’s Page Six TV, Entertainment Studios’ Funny You Should Ask, Pickler & Ben from Disney-ABC and E.W. Scripps and Tegna’s DailyBlastLive — are all coming back, while NBCUniversal’s Harry is ending its two-season run.

Syndicators are also gearing up for 2019. Several shows are in the works, including talkers starring Tamron Hall, Kelly Clarkson and RuPaul at Disney-ABC, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros., respectively, with other shows waiting in the wings.

While stations wait for new fare, they are focusing on launching this season’s new shows.

CTD’s Face the Truth is a cross between a panel talker, like Warner Bros.’ The Real, and a conflict talker, like NBCUniversal’s Maury. It stars Fox as host and moderator, with a “Truth Team” composed of Judge Mary “Scary Mary” Chrzanowski, psychologist Dr. Judy Ho, lawyer Areva Martin, and life coach and single mom Rosie Mercado.

“It’s all about girl power and I’m thrilled about that,” Fox said. “These are four successful, strong women from different walks of life, different nationalities. They’ve all got experience in the Dr. Phil world, having been on The Doctors or Dr. Phil. It’s kind of a family.”

For executive producer Patricia Ciano, Fox was exactly the right host for this show.

“There’s so much I love about Vivica,” Ciano said. “She’s so open and so real, she’s not guarded and she’s not judgy. She makes every guest feel so comfortable. She’s their girlfriend and their guiding light.”

In the show, a friend or relative brings someone on who they think needs the panel’s help. In one episode, a woman turns in her friend for repeatedly pretending she was pregnant with various rappers’ babies and trying to trap them. The panel decided to make her stand on Hollywood Boulevard wearing a pregnancy belly and a sign saying “I entrap rappers for attention.” Some storylines are more serious, while others are more light-hearted.

“This show offers meaningful conflict with instructive resolution,” Ciano said. “It feels different, fresh and modern. The ladies are complementary to each other. They really do have such specific perspectives.” Face the Truth premieres in syndication on Monday, Sept. 10.

Kinder, Gentler Court Show

The other new first-run series this year also features a slice of real life: Caught in Providence stars 81-year-old Chief Municipal Court Judge Frank Caprio, who was appointed to the court in 1985. For more than 25 years, his brother, Joe, has been filming his courtroom and airing it on local public access channels. In 2015, Joe worked with social media firm Sociable to put the show on YouTube and other platforms where it blew up, reaching more than 1.6 billion views. That’s when it caught Hollywood’s attention.

Producer Brad Johnson was cruising Reddit, looking for new ideas, when he saw a post headlined “Nicest Judge in the World.” He went to check out the show on YouTube and was immediately hooked. He took it to a friend of his in the syndication world — Debmar-Mercury’s Mort Marcus — who initially said he wasn’t interested in court shows.

“Just give me three minutes,” Johnson told Marcus, and sent him a three-minute reel.

Within an hour, Marcus had called Johnson back with an offer. When Marcus and his partner, Ira Bernstein, showed the show to Fox, the decision to go forward also came quickly.

“This is a charismatic, lovable judge and I think that’s what people are going to respond to,” Bernstein said. “He’s got this unique, funny, touching way that’s very sympathetic. He’s on your side — he’s your uncle or grandfather and he wants you to be OK.”

Caught in Providence debuts in syndication on Monday, Sept. 24.

Paige Albiniak

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.