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Syndication

Been There, Seen Most of That

September 21, 1997|LEE MARGULIES | TIMES TELEVISION EDITOR

From movies to comic books to magazines to board games, most of this year's crop of first-run syndicated fare is based on material from somewhere else. Even old TV shows.

That's a shortcoming in terms of originality but a strong suit in terms of marketing. When you're launching a new program and don't have the promotional oomph of a national network, an existing familiarity with the basic concept can be a big help--especially when you're battling such syndicated stalwarts as "Hercules," "Xena," "Oprah" and "Rosie."

Here are some of the syndicated programs of note to look for on the local broadcast stations this fall:

DRAMA / COMEDY SERIES

"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids": The Disney film and video series moves to television with Peter Scolari taking over the role of the bumbling inventor whose wacky machines create adventures for other family members. Despite the limitations suggested by the title, the producers say they will be delving into all sorts of science-fiction territory, "from time travel to alien encounters to adventures in space." Saturdays at 8 p.m. on KCOP, beginning Sept. 27.

"Fame L.A.": If you remember the 1980 movie and subsequent TV series, this is sort of the postgraduate years--more like "Fame" meets "Melrose Place." The characters are young adults pursuing careers as singers, dancers and actors. Sundays at 7 p.m. on KCAL, beginning Oct. 5.

"Police Academy: The Series": You thought this franchise had been put to a merciful death? Only in the movies. Now it's time to see if it will work for TV. Saturdays at 5 p.m. on KTTV, beginning Sept. 27.

"Conan": Is television ready for another muscle-bound superhero? Former Mr. Universe Ralf Moeller stars as the ex-slave battling to restore freedom to his homeland from the rule of sorcerer Hissah Zul (Jeremy Kemp). Saturdays at 6 p.m. on KCOP, beginning Sept. 27.

"Due South": This Mountie always gets his time period. Or at least a time period. The series, about a Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable on assignment in Chicago, first aired in 1994 on CBS. Network executives dropped it because of lackluster ratings, then changed their mind and called it back for midseason in 1995. It got canceled again but now has been revived anew, with Paul Gross still in the starring role. Sundays at 2 p.m. on KCBS, starting today.

"NightMan": Meet the world's first superhero sax player. That's right. As originally set out by Marvel Comics, Johnny Domino (Matt McColm) is a San Francisco musician who acquires impressive crime-fighting skills after being struck by lightning. Premieres Sept. 30, then will be seen Saturdays at 5 p.m. on KTLA, beginning Oct. 11.

"Soldier of Fortune, Inc.": The title comes from the magazine, but the series more closely resembles "Mission: Impossible." In other words, it's about a group of "highly trained covert military operatives ... [who go] where our government cannot and will not venture, to protect national and international interests and to maintain the balance of power." With as many explosions along the way as possible. Saturdays at 7 p.m. on KCOP, beginning Sept. 27.

"Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict": According to the producers, Roddenberry conceived the idea for this series in 1976 but never got around to developing it because he became immersed in the burgeoning "Star Trek" juggernaut. After he died in 1991, his widow, Majel, rediscovered the manuscript. The "V"-like story is set in the future, after 71 aliens have come in peace to Earth to help solve problems such as war and disease. But some humans suspect that the visitors have a hidden agenda. Imagine that! Saturdays at 6 p.m. on KTLA, beginning Oct. 11.

"Pensacola: Wings of Gold": James Brolin stars as a Marine officer in charge of training a special unit capable of tackling a variety of dangerous missions. The personnel are highly skilled at weaponry, piloting and demolition but, wouldn't you know; they don't always get along with one another. Saturdays at 7 p.m. on KCBS. Already premiered.

TALK, SERVICE AND VARIETY

"Arthel & Fred": Arthel Neville and Fred Roggin host this talk-variety series that purports to have fun as its main goal. Weekdays at 10 a.m. on KNBC. Already premiered.

"Martha Stewart's Living": Bolstered by the success of her weekend series--not to mention her numerous other endeavors in the "how-to" field--Stewart has stepped up her output by moving the show to weekdays. It airs at 2 p.m. on KCBS. Already premiered.

"Home Team With Terry Bradshaw": The former NFL quarterback is now calling the signals on a daytime series that mixes interviews and practical information about subjects such as cooking and home repair. Weekdays at 10 a.m. on KTTV. Already premiered.

"The Gayle King Show": A standard-issue talk show, hosted by a newswoman in Hartford, Conn., who also happens to be friends with the queen of the genre, Oprah. Weekdays at 2:30 p.m. on KCBS. Already premiered.

REALITY / GAME

"The People's Court": If at first you do succeed, why not try again? So Ralph Edwards / Stu Billett Productions is back with a new version of the courtroom series that was a syndicated sensation from 1981 to 1993. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is now the judge hearing real-life disputes from Small Claims Court. Weekdays at 1 p.m. on KCAL. Already premiered.

"Pictionary": Having bombed as a late-night talk-show host ("Thicke of the Night") and succeeded as a sitcom star ("Growing Pains"), Alan Thicke turns now to game shows, as both co-executive producer and host of this enterprise. For the uninitiated, "Pictionary" is like charades, except that players give clues to their words by drawing pictures instead of acting them out. Weekdays at 5:30 p.m. on KCAL, starting Monday.

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