The answer is: A ”Clue Crew.” The question: How is Jeopardy! changing its tried-and-true formula? The 17-year-old syndicated game show — which still thrives despite a modest ratings decline — will unveil a mini-makeover this fall when it adds a team of four correspondents who’ll tape clues from all over the globe. ”All TV shows evolve over time to stay fresh, whether it’s changing hosts or the decor on the set,” explains Alex Trebek. ”We’re not tinkering with the format. We’re just presenting material on the show in a newer way. It’s a way of trying to keep up with the times.” The nationwide search for the fab four (sorry kids — you must be 21 or older to play) begins in March, and our host has only one reservation about the applicant pool. ”I hope they’re not too good,” he says, ”because then somebody will look at them and say, ‘Geez, we ought to think about replacing Trebek.”’ Will Ferrell, are you listening? — Dan Snierson
Pity The Weber Show. Although it began the season dominating its Thursday time period in viewers and adults 18-49, it couldn’t escape the bad buzz universally heaped upon it by the press. ”Reporters couldn’t miss an opportunity to criticize NBC for making another attempt at programming 8:30 p.m. [Thursday],” surmises Steven Weber. ”There’s a conspiracy of laziness out there. They want to see it fail.” Then, faster than you can say February sweeps, Survivor 2 got scheduled against it, causing NBC to yank the fledgling show from its lineup. But, if you ask Weber, that was a blessing in disguise. He says the crew never had enough time to rework the series — which is currently on its second show runner and third story line — from its misguided first incarnation. The comedy, which was originally about a guy literally cursed by a scorned date, is now about a man who’s psychologically incapable of committing to women. ”Why’s he living with Chris Elliott‘s character, in his late 30s, and he’s not gay?” asks Weber. ”Why do these guys have one foot in their adolescence?” Beats us, but the Wings alum hopes the new direction will be enough to lure viewers away from Survivor (fortunately, he’ll get a two-week head start opposite NCAA basketball before Survivor returns to 8-9 p.m. Thursdays on March 28). Says Weber: ”We’re still on the air for miraculous reasons, so maybe the changes were good.” We’ll be the judge of that.
And So On … MTV is developing a new series from New Line Television that challenges actors, a director, and a screenwriter to make a movie in 24 hours. Insiders say Peter Berg (Chicago Hope) is already set to direct the pilot, which is scripted by Richard LaGravenese (The Bridges of Madison County) and stars Scott Wolf and Piper Perabo.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Jensen)
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