The Grab Bag: The Santa edition

Santa has a present for fans of sitcoms starring Marlo Thomas – but it won’t be delivered until January 1.

Ho, Ho, Ho! It’s Terry Claus about to deliver you a special Christmas edition of The Grab Bag! I got special presents from the world of media that will make you happy – or cringe. Let’s start handing out the gifts! Ho! Ho! Ho!

– WGN-TV has extra good reasons to cheer this holiday season – the Tribune-owned CW affiliate’s Drive-Thru Toy Drive during its December 20 morning newscast collected more than 25,000 toys from viewers to give to needy children across Chicagoland. Jennifer Hudson also made an appearance, where she received a $10,000 check from AT&T to donate to her Julian D. King Gift foundation (King is the name of her slain nephew.) All the toys dropped off at the event were donated through the foundation.

– Chicago-based MeTV has signed up two new affiliates: KTVD in Denver and WTHR in Indianapolis, with coverage now a little over 70 percent of the country. The digital subchannel network (now in its second year) is replacing the soon-to-depart Universal Sports on over-the-air broadcast channels 20.2 and 13.3, respectively beginning January 1 as Universal Sports becomes exclusive to cable and satellite. Universal Sports is seen locally on NBC-owned WMAQ’s digital subchannel 5.3 – no word on what WMAQ or NBC’s nine other owned stations will replace Universal sports with. There is a possibility the NBC-owned stations may let the digital channel space left by Universal Sports go dark.

– Is there any lingering resentment from NBA fans regarding the just-concluded lockout? Not if these numbers from the Bulls’ pre-season games are any indication – last Tuesday game against the Indiana Pacers set a ratings record for a pre-season game. According to an item on Chicagoland Radio & Media, the game averaged a 4.6 household rating on Comcast SportsNet Chicago – blowing away the previous record (3.2) set on October 11, 1997 when Michael Jordan was still with the team and on Fox Sports Chicago (which closed in 2004 when the teams shown on FSN defected to the Comcast start-up.)

– Notice something familiar about that new NBC prime-time game show Who’s Still Standing? No, not the part where two words of the title share the same name of a former Monday night CBS sitcom… but part of the premise was borrowed from a short-lived NBC daytime game show from 1966 called Showdown, hosted by controversial radio and TV talk show host Joe Pyne (who would actually pass as a relative of Morton Downey Jr.) According to the book Total Television by Alex McNeil, two three-member teams competed and any contestant who missed a question would fall right through the floor – similar to what happens when a contestant on Standing misses a question or fails to answer in time. Showdown was a major flop, lasting just three months and was replaced by the long-running and much more popular Hollywood Squares. Let’s hope Who’s Still Standing meets a similar fate.

– Finally, minor changes are occurring to WCIU’s and MeTV’s schedules: Beginning Monday, WCIU is swapping time periods for syndicated reruns of Family Guy and Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne. Family Guy moves to 8 p.m., while Payne returns to 6:30 p.m. – a time period it held until last September. Family Guy is now paired up with reruns of American Dad, which runs at 8:30 p.m. Family Guy has garnered poor ratings in its prime access run at WCIU and WGN-TV, which aired aired the series out of Two And A Half Men from 2007 to 2011, but dropped a substantial amount of its lead-in audience. WGN still airs the series in late fringe at 11 p.m. in an unusual syndication agreement with WCIU and Twentieth Television.

Meanwhile, MeTV is planning a six-hour marathon marathon on New years Day celebrating its latest acquisition – Marlo Thomas’ That Girl. Twelve consecutive episodes will run on January 1 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Central time, then move to its regular 8:30 p.m. time slot on January 2. That Girl ran on ABC from 1966-71 and featured Marlo Thomas as a young single woman living in New York City – a series CBS and NBC wouldn’t even consider at the time, but was sold to ABC as the network was focused on a more younger, urban audience – a demo the other two wouldn’t chase until the 1970’s. After its network run had finished, That Girl was sold into syndication via Metromedia Producers Corporation and later Worldvision Enterprises.

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