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'Serch' Begins 8-Market Tribune Test Today

The CBS Television Distribution show, hosted by rapper and former radio personality MC Serch, which today begins a four-week test on eight Tribune stations, including WPIX New York and KTLA Los Angeles, is meant to fit into the Tribune stations' conflict-talk lineup.
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In the first episode of the talk show Serch with host MC Serch, a troubled teenager with scars from three gunshot wounds is defiant and uncaring, particularly toward his desperate mother who’s trying to keep him out of trouble.

But by the end, the teenager is crying and hugging Serch, who promises to help him transform his life with the help of a mentor — music producer and entrepreneur Russell Simmons.

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The CBS Television Distribution show, which today begins a four-week test on eight Tribune stations, including WPIX New York and KTLA Los Angeles, is meant to fit into the Tribune stations' conflict-talk lineup.

But as the inaugural episode attests, Serch is attempting a fresh approach to the syndication sub-genre.

“I would like to think I am an anomaly in this type of show,” says Serch (real name: Michael Berrin), a rapper and former radio personality. “From the top down, all the executives at CTD and Tribune, to our executive producer Ethan Nelson, are trying to find people who want to fix their problems. We are not trying to find people who want to be ridiculed.”

And at least in the test episodes, there isn't any hooting, hollering or egging on guests to pummel each other.

Brand Connections

“The stories are conflict talk, but the focus is on helping people transform their lives,” says Hilary Estey McLoughlin, the former Telepictures president who is now president of creative affairs at CTD.

“The guests who are coming on have significant issues. Serch has a great way of connecting with them, to make the situation more positive. They feel inspired by him.”

The show is the third joint production of CTD and Tribune. The others are conflict show The Test and the latenight Arsenio Hall.

Serch is also notable in that it's the first time CTD is involved in testing a show and first time Tribune is testing a show with another syndicator.

Tests give producers a chance to tweak shows and distributors an opportunity to guage the appeal among viewers before committing to national distribution. Production partnerships spread out the financial risk to more than one company.

“By partnering with us, syndicators position themselves well around the country," says Matt Cherniss, president and general manager of Tribune Studios and the cable network WGN America. "That has value.”

For Tribune, the partnerships also give the station group more control over the content.

“I think we should have an active role in what goes on our air so we should be actively participating in crafting the show,” Cherniss says. “We have stayed close to this show throughout the process.”

If the initial test ratings are good, CTD and Tribune could decide to go national with the show within days and start hunting for additional stations  to carry it.

CTD will have to move fast if it hopes to clear the show in most markets by the fall.

“Traditionally, you have more time to clear a show,” says McLoughlin. “I’m not sure anyone has done it this late, in January. But we are prepared. [CTD President of Sales] Joe DiSalvo is a very talented salesperson. He and his team are going to go out and get it cleared. And Tribune has a large footprint, which is great.”

"My expectation is that the majority of the Tribune footprint will carry the show,” says Cherniss. It's a big footprint. With the acquisition of Local TV LLC last month, the group extended its reach to 44% of TV homes.

Tribune stations have room for the show, says Sean Compton, president of programming and entertainment for the Tribune stations. “We will find space for it."

Meantime, Serch says he is proceeding as if the show will pass its test and is busy lining up guests and doing what he can to promote the show. (No decision has been made on whether he will attend the NATPE programming conference at the end of the month.)

“I’m going to use the model I used when I did my nationally syndicated radio show, which I did for five years,” Serch says. “I made sure each of our program directors and GMs felt the show had a local feel.

“I am going to use social media, local radio stations and local TV stations to bring in guests from local markets. We did a pretty good job with that in the 20 test episodes [we taped]. That way, there is an automatic connection in local markets.”

On Tuesday, Serch will be a guest on CTD’s Arsenio.

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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
  • 1.
    1.6/6
  • 2.
    1.2/4
  • 3.
    1.2/4
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.3/1
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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