Bob Shanks, who was instrumental in the development of ABC's "Good Morning America" in 1976, has been signed by CBS to develop the latter half of a new, as yet untitled, three-hour morning program succeeding the low-rated "CBS Morning News" in January.
In another development in the morning-show wars, ABC on Thursday said that it has signed Jack Reilly, producer of the syndicated "Entertainment Tonight," as the new executive producer of "Good Morning America." He'll start work on Dec. 1. His successor at "ET" has not been named yet.
Reilly, who like Shanks worked at ABC's program before "Entertainment Tonight," will succeed Phyllis McGrady, who left "Good Morning America" to produce Barbara Walters' prime-time specials for ABC.
CBS, after saying that it was scrapping the "CBS Morning News" at the end of the year, last month said that its news division will "program" the network's new effort's first 90 minutes, from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., and offer "hard news." It said that its affiliates will have the option of carrying either half hour of the 6 a.m.-7 a.m. period, or both, but will be asked to carry the complete 7 a.m.-7:30 a.m. broadcast.
Although CBS says no decisions have been made on what will go in the 7:30 a.m.-9 a.m. slot that Shanks now will put together, it is expected that the time will be largely filled with lighter fare, celebrity interviews and what is known as "info-tainment."
CBS News won't be producing the second 90 minutes of the network's new morning effort. Instead, Shanks will head a separate production team for that segment. He will report to Van Gordon Sauter in the latter's capacity as an executive vice president of the CBS Broadcast Group.
Sauter also is president of CBS News and will supervise the hard-news segment of the network's new morning effort. No anchors or hosts for either that segment or the one Shanks will create have been chosen yet, CBS said Thursday.
The hiring of Shanks by CBS marks the latest step in the network's attempts to rebound from the persistent low ratings and turmoil that have been part of the legacy of the "CBS Morning News" in recent years.
The legacy includes the controversial hiring of Phyllis George as a co-anchor who left after nine months; the removal this summer of co-anchors Forrest Sawyer and Maria Shriver after only 11 months on the program; and the ill-fated hiring of former "Good Morning America" executive producer Susan Winston.
Winston, signed in May to develop new concepts and boost ratings, quit three months later, asserting that CBS had no clear vision of what it wanted in trying to come up with a successful morning show.
CBS's decision to end the 23-year-old "CBS Morning News" prompted sharp criticism from some staffers in the news division, including "60 Minutes" humorist Andy Rooney, who said that CBS News was giving up valuable air time.
Shanks, 53, whom CBS says will be the "executive in charge" of the second half of the network's new morning effort, is a winner of two Emmy awards and was an ABC programming vice president from 1973 to 1979.
In addition to "Good Morning America," he also helped create programs for ABC-owned stations, including "Good Afternoon Detroit" and "The Morning Show" in New York.
His other television producing credits include "The Merv Griffin Show" and "Candid Camera." He has been writing and producing TV movies in recent years. He is the author of several books, including "The Cool Fire--How to Make It in Television."