Given the durability of the syndicated entertainment newsmagazine format, it is no surprise to see a new half-hour strip called “Page Six TV,” based on the iconic gossip page in the New York Post, test the waters in first-run syndication. It began on Monday this week in a three-week test predominantly in the access programming block initially on seven Fox owned stations.
From the New York Post in partnership with Endemol Shine North America, “Page Six TV” delivers gossip and news from the worlds of entertainment, pop culture, the media, finance, real estate and politics via a panel of experts and insiders. No surprise there. And a true presence in this show is the city it is set in, according to Rob Smith, the Executive Vice President/Head of Unscripted, Endemol Shine USA.
“We want this to have a national view, of course, but we also realize that Page Six is all about New York. Like Los Angeles is to some of our competitors, New York is integral to us,” he explained. “Our show will feature a diverse group of contributors who are going to deliver gossip and entertainment from an informational and a comedy point of view.”
Hosted by comedian and actor John Fugelsang, the panelists are comedian Mario Cantone, who we remember as Anthony on “Sex and the City,” TV commentator Bevy Smith, Page Six reporter Carlos Greer and entertainment reporter Elizabeth Wagmeister. Page Six editor Emily Smith and deputy editor Ian Mohr are also expected to appear daily.
Based on the first few episodes, “Page Six TV” is exactly what you would expect: light and airy; like consuming cotton candy to satisfy your hunger. The approach is similar to the also gossipy “TMZ,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra” and “Access Hollywood,” among others, with a rapid progression on initial pieces about celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. But the banter between Fugelsang and the panelists goes more for comedy than the snarky attitude exhibited on “TMZ.”
In other words, “Page Six TV” feels like a flashy old shoe of sorts where you can sit back and forget about your troubles via the ongoing shtick of some of your favorite – or not so favorite – celebrities. If it resonates, and I personally found it entertaining, “Page Six TV,” like “The Wendy Williams Show,” “Dish Nation” and “TMZ” spin-off “TMZ Live” before it (which were also tested on numerous Fox stations), will be sold nationally.
“The Fox Station Group has obviously had a lot of success with these tests,” noted Smith. “So we said, okay, let’s try it this way and see how it works.”
Unlike years past when the new fall season was populated with national launches for the next array of syndicated first-run, talk show, game show, court show and/or magazine hopefuls, a test-run is a safer launch. Translation: If it fails (a la talkers “The Kris Jenner Show” and “The Fran Drescher Show,” which aired using this now more common model), the initial cost is kept at a minimum.
“Test-runs are also a way for distributors to tweak a show before going to the expense of a full blown launch,” noted Bill Carroll, Vice President, Content Strategy, Katz Television Group. “You can find out what works – or what doesn’t.”
While not a new concept – the current “Live!” franchise from Disney/ABC began locally as “The Morning Show,” co-hosted by Regis Philbin and Cyndy Garvey on WABC-TV in New York on April 4, 1984 – the economics of syndication today translates fewer new national series launches and more slow rollouts similar to the talk show hosted by preacher T.D. Jakes from Tegna Media and crime-themed “The Security Brief with Paul Viollis” from the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which are both adding stations this fall following test runs.
While one initial episode is certainly not a fair assessment of the potential success – or lack of – for any series, my crystal ball tells me we will indeed see a national sales effort for “Page Six TV.” Gossip never goes out of style, the New York setting is a refreshing change from the glam and glitter of Tinseltown (the opener even included an item on disgraced NYC politician Anthony Weiner), and the show – at least in this first episode – was escapist fun.
Next up in the world of these syndicated test runs is a daily version of newsmagazine “Dateline” from NBCUniversal in August, incorporating footage from the primetime version. Also launching, but nationally from the get go, is variety-themed daily hour “Harry,” hosted by Harry Connick, Jr.,” also from NBCUniversal. It opens on Monday, September 12 and it is already cleared in 99% of the country.