Fall 2011 syndicaton update: The race to replace "Oprah"

Anderson Cooper has entered The Race To Replace. 

Welcome to The Race To Replace!

This fancy catch phrase yours truly created (patent pending) is to describe the hysteria over the departure of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show in September and the number of vacated time periods she leaves behind for syndicators – or someone else – to fill.  Here is the latest on the fall 2011 syndication development slate:

– It’s the project that won’t die: Despite the current upheaval at Tribune, plans are still on track to launch The Bill Cunningham Show. The series has cleared 40 percent of the country on its station group. While Tribune is searching for a syndicator to sell the show, a name has surfaced: NBC Universal appears to be in the running to land Cunningham, this after NBC Universal and Tribune cut a deal last week to continue to carry its trio of conflict talk shows until 2014.

– Warner Bros. has signed a deal for Anderson Cooper to host a daytime talk show, and he’ll continue to do his own nightly CNN show as well. Already it is drawing comparisons to The Jane Pauley Show, which lasted only two seasons – not a good thing.

– And Sony wants to add another hour to its belt; it has signed a deal with Lisa Oz (the wife of Dr. Memhet Oz, whose talk show is syndicated by Sony) to shoot a pilot for a relationship-based talk show.

-Debmar-Mercury is developing three shows, including one around Fran Drescher, who will get a tryout on six Fox-owned stations beginning on November 29 (Chicago is not one of the markets in the test.)

– Twentieth Television tested The Mike Huckabee Show in a few markets last summer, but the series featuring the former Arkansas governor did not fare in the ratings. Still, Twentieth (like Tribune with Cunningham) is still pressing forward with the show.

– Outside of Talk, CBS Television Distribution unveiled a new series titled Excused, which seeks to revive the dating/relationship genre which was left for dead several years ago with the exit of NBC Universal’s Blind Date. In fact, Excused comes from Blind Date’s production company. CTD is targeting the series for late-night time periods, but those could be in short supply as many stations air off-network sitcoms in those slots. The format is sort-of like Elimidate – it starts off with six people with two women voting off two men to form two couples – swapping with each other during the date. Two women then choose a final man, who picks a winning woman (get all of that?) Don’t know about you, but this project should be – um, excused.

– Program Partners has cleared WLS-TV here in Chicago and nine other O&Os to carry Electric Playground, a Canadian entertainment  newsmagazine and gadget review show as quarterly specials for next season. If they are successful, it would launch as a strip for the 2012 season.

– Finally, Trifecta Entertainment and Mark Burnett Productions have pulled the plug on American Idol clone One In A Million. The rather ambitious project was introduced last spring as a daily strip for fall 2011, but wasn’t able to find interest from station groups, who apparently still remember the Star Search debacle from ’92 when the weekday version of the talent show was tried.