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Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2003

NBC scraps summer reruns

May 7, 2003

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— Anyone planning to catch up on episodes of "Frasier" and "The West Wing" after Memorial Day won't find them on NBC's prime-time lineup for part of the summer, as the network intends to load up on unscripted series as an alternative to traditional rerun doldrums.

All the networks plan to air various so-called reality shows this summer in an effort to keep viewers from switching to cable, with the decision to bench such popular programs (neither of which have fared especially well with repeats recently) highlighting that commitment.

In an effort to "keep the lights on," as NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker has put it, the network will bring back the game show "Dog Eat Dog" on May 27, followed by "Crime & Punishment" -- a reality-based version of its dramatic hit "Law & Order" -- and the dating show "Meet My Folks" in June.

New series enjoying limited runs include the competitions "Last Comic Standing: The Search for the Funniest Person in America," starting June 10, and "Fame," inspired by the film and TV series of the same title, with Debbie Allen recruiting multitalented performers, premiering May 28.

Joining "Meet My Folks" on Mondays in June will be a new "relationship" show, "For Love or Money." In a twist on Fox's "Joe Millionaire," the female contestant chosen learns only after the fact that she must choose between the man of her dreams or $1 million.

NBC's strategy represents a departure from the late 1990s, when the network sought to make reruns seem fresh with the campaign "It's New to You," suggesting that viewers return for episodes they missed during the season.

Research has shown that, with busy lifestyles, people don't see multiple episodes of even their favorite TV series.

Pitching reruns, however, has been a tough sell, and despite lower overall viewing levels the networks have found summer to be a breeding ground for hits.

Since 1999, the major networks have each introduced unscripted series that became lineup staples during those months, with ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" followed by CBS' "Survivor," NBC's "Fear Factor" and Fox's "American Idol."

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