Chicago syndie schedules get dramatic makeover

Yep, you’ll be seeing more of this guy on Chicago TV this fall.

Local stations, syndicators shuffle the deck

As we enter year two in the post-Oprah era, things are finally changing in the syndication marketplace, as five new syndicated talk shows – the most in 17 years – make their debut.

As for off-network sitcoms, the pickings are rather slim – just two new entries this year, compared to five in 2011. Reflecting the diminished demand for comedies on prime-time schedules in recent years, stations are now filling time slots once reserved for off-net sitcoms with news, first-run talk and game shows, and entertainment magazine programs. It’s all reflected in this year’s schedules.

On the other hand, the first-run syndicated sitcom returns in the vein of First Family and Mr. Box Office – not counting weekday stripping, the last time there was a first-run sitcom in syndication was Student Bodies in 1997.

With all of this said, here’s a guide to what you can find in syndication this fall in Chicago, starting with some key programming moves. All changes are effective September 10, unless otherwise noted:

Daytime/Early Fringe.

– The first syndicated show to premiere is Steve Harvey, which debuted today at 2 p.m. over NBC-owned WMAQ (NBC 5.) Beginning Monday, he’ll be joined in the time period by Jeff Probst, whose new syndicated talker airs opposite Harvey on WBBM-TV (CBS 2). Ironically, the CBS Television-distributed Probst was sold to NBC-owned stations in eight markets, but not in Chicago (or Washington D.C., where Probst is airing on Fox-owned WTTG instead of NBC-owned WRC.)

– Making a comeback is Ricki Lake, whose new show is airing at 3 p.m. on Fox-owned WFLD (and also at 10 a.m. on sister station WPWR, where Ms. Lake’s original show aired for its entire run.) Going head-to-head with Lake is Katie Couric’s highly-touted new talk show, which also airs at 3 p.m. on ABC-owned WLS-TV (ABC 7), marking the first new program in the time period in nearly 30 years.

To make room, Inside Edition – which has aired at 3 p.m. since December 3, 1990, and Jeopardy! – which has aired at 3:30 p.m. since September 10, 1984 – are moving to 2 and 2:30 p.m., respectively, replacing longtime stalwart General Hospital, which moves to 1 p.m.

– Also new on the talk show front is Trisha Goddard, whose new show debuts at 9 a.m. on WCIU, beginning Sept. 17.

Access.

– WFLD is going the tabloid magazine route by pairing TMZ up with freshman Dish Nation from 5-6 p.m. and 10-11 p.m., respectively, replacing the 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. airings of The Simpsons and the 10 p.m. airing of The Big Bang Theory. Instead, Fox is double-running the two sitcoms in access at 6 p.m head-to-head and back-to-back: Simpsons on WFLD and Big Bang on WPWR. Meanwhile, WPWR is double-running back-to-backers with How I Met Your Mother at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and WFLD is doing likewise with The Office from 11 p.m.-midnight (looks like WFLD is throwing in the towel on this show.)

Off-network.

Only two new off-network series are coming to syndication this fall: WCIU has slotted Sony’s Rules Of Engagement at 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. beginning Sept. 12 (Engagement is being pre-empted on the 10th and 11th for baseball.), WCIU is also expanding its African-American-targeted sitcom block to two-and-a-half hours a night with the addition of Debmar-Mercury’s Are We There Yet?, which at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. beginning Sept. 17, while moving House Of Payne from 8 to 9 p.m., and retaining Meet The Browns at 7:30 p.m. Are We There Yet is also airing on TBS, returning after a long hiatus. Family Guy makes its second time-period change in a year, moving to 9 p.m. on WCIU.

And the rest…

– Yep, you’ll definitely see more of a presence of Steve Harvey: in addition to his talk show, Fox has upgraded Family Feud to 1 p.m. on WFLD and 5 p.m. on WPWR (and if you want more Steve Harvey, reruns of his former WB sitcom airs on WCIU Saturday afternoons at 3 and 3:30 p.m. most weeks.)

– WCIU has added more programming to its U Too digital subchannel, available on channel 26.2 and Xfinity channel 360  New this fall is NBC 5 castoff We The People With Gloria Allred, which airs in a morning court block (9 a.m.) along with a new show from Cristina Perez and the existing Last Shot With Judge Gunn. New to primetime is off-GSN episodes of Baggage (7 p.m) and Excused (8 p.m.) All of these changes take effect on Sept. 17.

– WCIU is adding new first-run syndicated sitcoms Mr. Box Office and First Family to its Sunday night lineup, airing from 7-9 p.m., beginning Sept. 23, each with back-to-backers. WCIU is also adding off-Cartoon Network episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars to its Saturday night animation block, airing from midnight-1 a.m. beginning Sept. 22.

– WGN is adding Bloopers to its weekend lineup, effective Sept. 15. The update of the 1980’s outtake series is being hosted by Dean Cain, and is scheduled to run back-to-backers from 3 to 4 p.m., when not being pre-empted by sports.

– CBS-owned WBBM is adding off-TNT reruns of Leverage to its late night weekend lineup and is bringing back CSI: Miami, both effective Sept. 15. ABC-owned WLS-TV is adding Private Practice and Castle to weekend time slots now occupied by Brothers & Sisters and Grey’s Anatomy, respectively. Both of those series’ syndication contracts are expiring.

– MeTV launched its fall schedule Monday, adding Emergency! and The Danny Thomas Show to its schedule. MeTV has split into several feeds – to look at the fall schedule for the Central/Mountain time zone (which includes Chicagoland), click here; for the Eastern/Pacific time zone, click here.

– Antenna TV is also adding new off-network sitcoms to its schedule: Benson and Barney Miller, but only on Sunday nights. To see their schedule, click here.

What’s out:

While only two first-run strips were canceled this season (Nate Berkus and Swift Justice), there are other series not returning due to poor ratings, expiring contracts, or both:

– In addition to Grey’s and Brothers & Sisters, off-network series being removed from broadcast syndication include My Name Is Earl, Everybody Hates Chris, Ugly Betty, Numbers, and Without A Trace. In a rather bizarre move (as the show itself), South Park has been reduced from a weeknight strip to airing only on weekends in a handful of markets.

– Canceled first-run weekend programming includes Heartland and World’s Funniest Moments.

– With CW cancelling the series and Warner Bros. not picking up an option to move the show to syndication (like they did with Judge Jeanne Pirro a few years back), its adios to Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers after one season.

– And there a few syndicated shows missing clearances in Chicago as the third-largest market in the country still isn’t home to America Now, Right This Minute, On The Spot (Edit: On The Spot has since been cleared on WGN-TV in a weekend slot) and now Better, which was recently canceled by WPWR.

Also off local schedules is Who Wants To Date A Comedian; the series has not been renewed for a second season.

Sources: WCIU.com; Sitcoms Online; SNTA, Deluxe Syndication.

This article was updated on September 17 at 12:01 a.m.

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