Reaper, the quirky dramedy currently airing on Tuesday on CW, may be headed for first-run syndication.
The series – now in its second season – would be sold to CW affiliates for airing on Sunday nights at either 7 or 8 p.m. However, Disney-ABC Television Distribution could sell the show to a My Network TV affiliate, independent station, or even a Big Four network affiliate for weekend late fringe if the CW affiliate in a market turns it down.
Disney-ABC already has Legend of the Seeker in first-run syndication – it could be paired with Reaper in some markets.
CW announced last week it was planning on handing its Sunday night lineup back to stations due to low ratings and the awful economic climate. Many CW affils have opted to acquire a movie package from MGM to fill some of those slots starting this fall.
Reaper’s showrunners have left ABC Studios for deals at Fox, and would have a new writing team. The show’s production budget would likely be cut, with a move to Canada a possibility.
Of course, this isn’t the first time a canceled network drama would have been revived for first-run syndication.
When the Big Three were forced to hand a half-hour back to their affiliates in 1971 because of the Prime Time Access Rule (which reduced prime-time to just three hours a night – four on Sundays), the networks canceled scores of shows, including Lassie and Hee Haw. The two shows were quickly picked up by syndicators and sold to stations for those newly created prime-time access periods. Lassie would run until 1973 (it would have a brief syndicated revival from 1989-91) and Hee Haw until 1992.
In 1983, Metromedia and MGM decided to syndicate Fame to stations after NBC canceled the critically acclaimed but low-rated series (Fame would switch to Tribune-owned stations in 1985.)
In 1990, producer Stephen J. Cannell and his production company syndicated new episodes of 21 Jump Street (without Johnny Depp) to stations after Fox canceled it after three seasons.
And of course, the best example would be Baywatch. After NBC dropped it after one season in 1990, it moved to first-run syndication in 1991 and would run for ten years.
Other examples include Viper and Due South. Sitcoms that were canceled after two or less seasons and revived in syndication included Too Close for Comfort, It’s a Living, Charles in Charge, and We Got It Made.
If Reaper is picked up for syndication, it could make a killing in international sales, which helped fund many first-run action series in the 1990’s, including Baywatch.