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Jay McGraw Puts Syndication To 'The Test'

The latest project from the head of Stage 29 Productions is a confilct talker with a twist, The Test, that's debuting on Tribune stations this fall. The creator of other daytime shows, including The Doctors, dishes on his latest effort as well as the ins and outs of syndication.
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The last time Jay McGraw’s Stage 29 Productions had a show debut in broadcast syndication, it scored with the long-running informational talk show The Doctors. This fall, Stage 29 will try again in an entirely different genre, conflict talk — but conflict talk with a humorous twist.

The Test is a DNA-, lie detector- and paternity-test-results show to be hosted by comedian Kirk Fox. On Jan. 9, CBS Television Distribution announced it would distribute the show and has so far lined up stations reaching 56% of  U.S. TV homes.

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Tribune Broadcasting, including CW affiliates WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles and WGN Chicago, is the key outlet. The Test should fit in nicely with those stations' other conflict shows from NBCUniversal — Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos.

Jay McGraw spoke with TVNewsCheck about The Test, The Doctors and the daytime TV business.

How did you come up with the concept for The Test?

I would love to say I was sitting on a beach and had a moment where I was scrambling for a piece of paper.

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But the truth is that it’s just an engineering problem. The letters we receive on our website, and if you look at the ratings, the black-and-white objective of a test, whether it’s DNA or drugs or lie detectors, is that there’s a concrete answer at the end of a heated conflict. That resonates with viewers.

So, I thought, “How can we deliver a format that people are looking for with a lot of variety and a lot of entertainment? How can we do that and give people an answer at the end of the hour?”

What was the next stage in development after you had that initial concept down?

From there, we started looking for hosts. I think I hit the jackpot with Kirk Fox. People are going to be really impressed when they see what he does.

The Test sounds like other conflict talk shows, except that Kirk Fox is a comedian. What does he bring to the show?

Anytime you have the intensity of the conflicts you’ll see on The Test, you need a moment of levity. You need to let the audience take a deep breath. You need to let people laugh at themselves.

He is a comedian who has done more than 2,000 live standup shows. There’s nothing that can replace experience. He has handled audiences, a lot of them drinking, on his feet without any help. Very few people have that skill.

In the little bit of development we’ve done on the show, we can see that is going to benefit us in great multiples on the air.

While Kirk Fox is a comedian, do you think The Test will have a familiar look and feel to viewers?

If you flip through channels during the day, everything looks somewhat the same. There’s a stage and a host and guests. It will look like a daytime show.

But as producers, it’s our job to give it a unique look and feel. We’ll have a unique stamp.

How far along are you in developing the show?

We’re in that exciting but unrewarding phase of developing a show. The fun part is coming up with new ideas, all the fun stuff. Yet, we won’t see anything tangible for a while.

Right now, we’re going through the nuts and bolts of graphics, music and set design. Once we start booking guests, it’ll get more exciting.

Tribune Broadcasting is the launch group for the show. Did they partner with you on developing the show?

They weren’t part of the development. But Sean Compton and the whole Tribune group are the ideal partners for this show. The show works with the traffic flow of their viewers.

Once Tribune was on board, it really lent a great vote of confidence to the format and to Kirk Fox as host.

As a producer, do you concern yourself with the time slots that stations will air your shows in?

You don’t develop around that. But, at the same time, if you’re developing a late night show and there isn’t a hole there’s no point in moving forward. But you can’t let your creative be dictated by that.

Any other shows in development at Stage 29?

The biggest development is developing and selling The Test. Other than that, we’re always looking for great talent.

Daytime syndication is an exciting area of television. There are very few people who can pull off hosting a show 180 times a year. It’s not very often that you find someone who you want to trust your goals with, so when you do, you put all your effort into it.

The Doctors is now in its fifth season with renewals a couple of years out. Did you start Stage 29 with The Doctors or before then?

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Comments (2) -

nOprah Nickname posted over 4 years ago
"How did you come up with the concept for The Test? "I would love to say I was sitting on a beach and had a moment where I was scrambling for a piece of paper. "But the truth is that it’s just an engineering problem. The letters we receive on our website, and if you look at the ratings, the black-and-white objective of a test, whether it’s DNA or drugs or lie detectors, is that there’s a concrete answer at the end of a heated conflict. That resonates with viewers." ----- Really? I'm sure he never, ever watched a Jerry Springer episode in his life, right?
TheTestP Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Apply to appear on the show today! Send name, contact number and brief description of your conflict to: thelioniscasting@gmail.com for your chance to be on The Test.
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 25, 2016
  • 1.
    5.5/18
  • 2.
    2.6/8
  • 3.
    1.2/4
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.5/2
  • 6.
    0.2/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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