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CBS studies game show classics and telenovelas

Series inspired by those genres are in the works, as is a serialized mini-film.

January 19, 2006|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

SO, CBS -- excuse us, the correct title now is CBS Television Network -- doesn't want to be Cop Show Central after all.

Coming soon to a small screen near you: celebrities competing in classic game shows (they dance, they skate, now they may also play "Match Game"!); an undefined telenovela series-reality show hybrid; and a short film that will air during commercial breaks over consecutive nights, announced Nina Tassler, CBS president of entertainment, to a gathering of television critics in Pasadena on Wednesday.

Sure, CBS, with its popular crime shows, won't have a lot of holes to plug in the fall schedule (five of its six new series succeeded this year), but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Along with blooming jacarandas, this spring will bring us the British-created "Game Show Marathon," in which six stars (not just those who are part of the Viacom universe) will compete in a different classic game show in each episode. High-minded executives at CBS are making lists of potential game shows as we speak. "Beat the Clock" anyone?

Sometime around spring or summer, CBS will premiere "The Courier," a short film that will air in less-than-60-second bursts during commercial breaks over seven nights.

And in summer, the Tiffany Network will branch out into the world of Spanish telenovela-making, except this show will be in English. And it won't really be a telenovela, except that it will end after 13 weeks, involve some kind of steamy romance -- probably unrequited -- and move quickly through its plots, Tassler said.

"The bosoms may not heave as much," Tassler quipped, responding to a question about how CBS would handle the issue of prominent cleavage, which seems to be an integral component of Spanish telenovelas.

Tassler has hired five creators-writers, including author Nicholas Sparks and Jonathan Prince, creator of "American Dreams," to each develop a telenovela series. Tassler will pick her favorite of the bunch and air it, probably twice a week for 13 weeks in the summer. (Sounds like another reality competition, huh?)

Tassler, who is part Puerto Rican and said she grew up with telenovelas playing in the background when her grandmother was around, said CBS has been trying to experiment with the genre for several years. There are no outside consultants from the telenovela industry assisting, just the hired writers and their imaginations.

But with few Latino actors working on its shows, and most Spanish-speakers tuning in to Univision or Telemundo for their soapy fills, what audience is CBS targeting?

"It's a kind of storytelling that we think will appeal to a Latin audience, but we think that our audience will enjoy it as well," Tassler said.

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