The latest news from the TV beat
A SANDERS SHUFFLE? HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show is known for its brutally candid portrayal of the TV biz; next season, it might take that realism to new heights. Just as plotlines on the show have featured Jon Stewart angling to take over Garry Shandling’s hosting chair, Stewart could do just that in real life should Shandling make good on threats that the upcoming season is his last. ”There have been discussions between Jon and Garry,” admits a source close to the situation. ”One scenario is for Jon to return this season, then spin it off into his own show.” Stewart may have to do some juggling to get the gig: He’s under contract to David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants to develop, among other things, a late-night talker for CBS, and he’s already a guest host for Tom Snyder on the Eye’s Late, Late Show. Sanders producer Brillstein-Grey Entertainment and Stewart declined to comment.
FUTURE SHOCK: Having just wrapped up negotiations for two more years of Friends (through the 1999-2000 season), at a cost estimated to be over $3 million per episode, NBC execs can now take a deep breath in preparation for what may be the most expensive renewal in TV history: ER.
Warner Bros. Television, the show’s producer, has a huge bargaining chip: It knows that NBC’s Thursdays would be considerably less must-see without TV’s top drama. But despite ER‘s prestigious No. 1 Nielsen spot, the studio actually loses money per episode (Warner Bros. must eat the difference between the roughly $1.5 million in production costs and the just over $1 million NBC pays in licensing fees) — at least until syndication money kicks in. When renewal talks start either later this year or early next, Warner Bros. will likely try to negotiate a settlement (a la NBC’s Paramount deal with Frasier) whereby the net would reimburse the studio for ER‘s deficits thus far, as well as boost the license fee. Some are predicting that figure could go as high as $5 million per episode, making the cost-ly Seinfeld negotiations look like chump change.
But don’t cry for NBC just yet: As it stands now, the net easily makes its $1 million back during a single commercial break (a 30-second spot for Friends runs $350,000 to $400,000; a commercial for ER can cost $500,000). And NBC has never walked away from the bargaining table empty-handed: Friends will produce 24 episodes this season (the norm is 22), and the net’s deals with Seinfeld and Frasier give it third runs at a reasonable price.
AND SO ON… ABC has ordered director Ed Burns’ (She’s the One) first TV effort, the sitcom Raise the Roof, for mid-season. Yup, that’s the very same show entertainment president Jamie Tarses had ordered in May, only to be forced to rescind by a peeved CEO Robert Iger (he hadn’t given permission)….CBS execs are miffed at NBC, whose honchos are said to have bad-mouthed the Eye’s purchase of the Country Music Awards (previously a Peacock show). NBC claimed it’s a money loser. Not true, says the CBS brass: NBC made $3 million off the show, then tried to lowball a renewal deal only to get beat….The Drew Carey Show just finished a location shoot in Cleveland for a new opening credits sequence (a dance number set to the Presidents of the United States of America’s ”Cleveland Rocks”). Exec producer Bruce Helford reports that the cast’s presence in Cleveland was ”like the Beatles coming to America.” Indeed, in just one hour, 4,000 tickets to the filming were scooped up by would-be extras. (Additional reporting by Dan Snierson)