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Preview '96

How to Succeed in Syndication : MAKE IT SIMPLE AND FAMILIAR TO A PRIOR HIT: HENCE, 'TARZAN,' 'ACCESS HOLLYWOOD' AND 'JUDGE JUDY'

September 15, 1996|LEE MARGULIES | TIMES TELEVISION EDITOR

"Donahue" is gone. So are "Carnie" and "Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years." But original programming for syndication is very much alive this season, with a new crop of dramas, reality series and talk shows vying for attention.

If most of them seem a tad familiar or even, dare we say, derivative, that seems to be the nature of the syndication field. When you're selling a show market by market, you've got to make the product easy to grasp and none too risky.

Here's a rundown on what to look for on local stations this fall. Unless otherwise noted, the programs already have premiered.

DRAMA

"The Cape": "L.A. Law" alum Corbin Bernsen plays the director of astronaut training at the Kennedy Space Center in a drama about the personal and professional lives of would-be space travelers. Sundays at 4 p.m. on KCBS.

"Two": Think "The Fugitive." Gus McClain (Michael Easton) is on the run, falsely accused of killing his wife. The twist is that he isn't searching for a mysterious one-armed man to clear himself: He's looking for his evil twin brother. Saturdays at 11:35 p.m. on KABC.

"FX: The Series": Based on the two "F/X" movies, this action show stars Kevin Dobson as a New York detective and Cameron Daddo as the motion picture special-effects wizard who helps him create illusions to capture criminals. Fridays at 9 p.m. on KCOP, beginning Sept. 20.

"The Adventures of Sinbad": The producers promise plenty of special effects to create the sea serpents and other mythical beasts that populate the magic-filled world of sailor Sinbad (Zen Gesner). Premieres at 6 p.m. Sept. 28, then will be seen Saturdays at 3 p.m. on KTLA.

"Viper": If at first you don't succeed. ... After an unsuccessful run on NBC in 1994, this action show has been retooled for syndication. Jeff Kaake stars as the driver of a flashy Dodge Viper that, with the push of a button, transforms to a battle vehicle, complete with machine guns, flame throwers and rocket launchers. Fridays at 8 p.m. on KCOP.

"Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal": Dan Aykroyd, who used to do a great Rod Serling impression on "Saturday Night Live," takes on the role for real as host of an hourlong anthology series. Each week it serves up two stories about investigators looking into reports of paranormal phenomena. Saturdays at 11:30 p.m., on KCBS, starting Sept. 28.

"Tarzan: The Epic Adventures": Joe Lara, who portrayed Tarzan in a 1989 TV movie, "Tarzan in Manhattan," says "it's like a dream come true" to get another opportunity to play the Lord of the Jungle. Premieres on KCAL with a two-hour movie at 5 p.m. today, will be seen Sept. 29 and Oct. 6 at 10 p.m. and then will air Saturdays at 6 p.m., beginning Oct. 12.

TALK

"In Person With Maureen O'Boyle": O'Boyle says her experience as a TV journalist will give her show a newsy flavor. She is a former correspondent for the syndicated magazine show "Extra" and a former anchor of "A Current Affair." Weekdays at 2 p.m. on KNBC.

"Pat Bullard": Bullard is a former stand-up comic who most recently worked as a writer and producer on "Grace Under Fire." Weekdays at 10 a.m. on KTLA, starting Monday.

REALITY

"Access Hollywood": Producer Jim Van Messel challenges the show that used to employ him, "Entertainment Tonight," with this NBC-backed entertainment news program. Giselle Fernandez and Larry Mendte are the hosts. Weekdays at 7:30 p.m. on KNBC.

"Judge Judy": Remember "People's Court"? Well, this is family court, presided over by Judge Judy Sheindlin of New York City. Sheindlin, a colorful, outspoken jurist who has been profiled by "60 Minutes," will render verdicts aimed at resolving family conflicts. Weekdays at 3 p.m. on KCOP.

"Scoop With Sam & Dorothy": Sam Rubin and Dorothy Lucey, who compete against one another as entertainment reporters on rival morning TV shows, team up for this combination of show-business news and celebrity interviews. Weekdays at 11 a.m. on KTLA.

"Beach Patrol": This is sort of a "Cops" meets "Baywatch," offering real-life footage of "crime fighting and daring rescues on our nation's oceans, lakes and rivers." Ian Ziering of "Beverly Hills, 90210" hosts. Saturdays at 4 p.m. on KCBS, starting Sept. 28.

"Strange Universe": The subject of this daily magazine show is anything that's at all unusual: ghosts, astrology, telepathy, tribal rituals, space travel, herb therapies, you name it. Weekdays at 11:30 p.m. on KCOP, starting Monday.

"Real TV": From the dramatic (a helicopter crashing) to the bizarre (a snail drinking beer), if someone caught it on videotape, "Real TV" will air it. The program features video from around the world, taken by news organizations, amateurs and surveillance cameras. Weekdays at 6:30 p.m. on KCAL, starting Monday.

"TV.Com": Billed as an "Entertainment Tonight" for the Internet, this half-hour weekly newsmagazine will fill viewers in on new and interesting Web sites, the latest computer technology and the people making the wired world happen. Sundays at 5 p.m. on KABC, beginning Sept. 22.

"America's Dumbest Criminals": At last, a reality show that is intentionally funny. Daniel Butler, co-author of a 1995 book on the subject, hosts these tales of bungled burglaries and clumsy capers. Premieres at 3 p.m. Sept. 21 on KNBC and thereafter will be seen on weekends at varying times.

GAME

"The Dating/Newlywed Hour": Just what television needed: a revival of "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game," packaged together and touted as "updated, faster-paced versions of the originals." Brad Sherwood hosts the game for singles; Gary Kroeger does the honors for the married couples. Weekdays at 11 a.m. on KTTV.

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