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