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Rerun networks start making own shows

Nick at Nite, TV Land develop programming
/ Source: The Associated Press

TV Land and Nick at Nite, for which time has always stood still, say they will start producing new series for the first time.

It seems counterintuitive to try something new on the two cable channels built upon showing classic reruns, but executives say they are trying to carefully extend the brand.

First up on Nick at Nite: “Fatherhood,” a cartoon based on Bill Cosby’s best-selling book, scheduled to air in June.

“It’s really not fundamentally a big change in our strategy,” said Larry Jones, general manager of both TV Land and Nick at Nite. “It’s taking a business opportunity in a particular hour in a targeted way.

“Yeah, it’s a bit of a risk, but a smart risk, I believe,” he said.

Nick at Nite airs reruns on the Nickelodeon children’s network when the kids go to bed, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern (10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), and through the overnight hours. TV Land is a separate basic cable outlet devoted exclusively to old TV. Both are owned by Viacom, which also owns CBS, UPN, MTV and the BET cable channels as well as the Paramount movie studio.

Other series in development for Nick at Nite include “Zen & Buster,” a cartoon about dogs in Hollywood created by Kelsey Grammer, and “Alf’s Hit Talk Show,” with the puppet alien interviewing celebrities.

Nick at Nite is aiming the new series for the 9 p.m. “transition hour” after the kids’ fare ends, starting with one night a week and shooting eventually for five.

TV Land has produced occasional specials in recent years, and now will branch out into series, probably on Sunday nights. Starting in April, Merv Griffin will be host of a six-part series profiling TV’s pioneering producers.

The network’s proposed series don’t stray too far from the brand: “Living in TV Land” sends cameras following the lives of veteran actors such as Dick Van Patten and Jack Klugman, and “Table Read” reunites TV series casts for readings of some of their shows’ best scripts.

Another series, “Hello Out There,” is described as a comedy about the behind-the-scenes antics of running a classic TV network.

Television analyst Larry Gerbrandt, chief operating officer of Kagan World Media, said the two networks are living proof of the long and profitable lives of successful series.

“Why wouldn’t you want a piece of that?” he asked.

Running new shows an hour or so a day doesn’t represent much of a risk, Gerbrandt said.

“If it works, you have the next ‘Queer Eye,’ the next ‘Osbournes,’ the next ‘Road Rules,”’ he said. “More importantly, you may have something that takes the network on to the next level. Do you want to spend the rest of your life being somebody else’s reruns?”