Tuned In: Fall is near and so is TV's new crop of syndicated shows

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CULVER CITY, Calif. -- On an expansive set that is, appropriately, fit for a queen, Queen Latifah surveys her kingdom for "The Queen Latifah Show" (4 p.m. weekdays, WPCW, beginning Sept. 16).

With two-story faux marble walls, wood accents throughout and a two-chair chat area near a fireplace, this set designed by Lenny Kravitz's company looks like it was built to last.

But in TV, a show's longevity is in the hands of viewers. If they tune in, "The Queen Latifah Show" will be around for a while; if they do not, this expensive-looking set will be broken down for scrap by May.

During a late July visit to the Sony studios where the show is taped, Queen Latifah said her goal is not to be the next Oprah Winfrey, the most popular daytime TV host of all time.

"Oprah is Oprah, and she's still being Oprah in case anyone hadn't noticed," Queen Latifah said. "Obviously there are great things she accomplished and I'd love to be able to accomplish some of those things, but I think what I bring to television is me. I'm Queen Latifah. I've had a different life story and a different path that I've traveled."

Her premiere week guests on this multi-topic talk-variety show will include John Travolta, Jamie Foxx, Sharon Stone and Will Smith, who has a stake in the series, which is produced by, among others, Overbrook Entertainment, Mr. Smith's company with wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

"She's very funny, she's very witty, she's very intelligent, she has a lot of heart, and I'm in agreement with her, I think what we're missing today is heart in this platform," Ms. Pinkett Smith said, seated on a couch next to Queen Latifah. "Latifah to me, when we did the research on her, she is across the board; from 3 to 80, women, men, kids, she is extremely likable. For us, it was just a win. I couldn't think of any talent, besides Latifah -- besides the fact that she's my friend -- I couldn't think of anyone else that could win in this space besides Latifah."

"The Queen Latifah Show" isn't the only high-profile syndicated series airing on WPCW. A reboot of "The Arsenio Hall Show" will air at 11 p.m. weeknights on Channel 19 beginning Monday.

There's much more late-night competition now than when Mr. Hall's first late-night show ended its five-year run in 1994, so much so that he joked about following in the footsteps of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and NBC's Jimmy Fallon.

"I actually was down at the courthouse today. I'm trying to change my name to Jimmy because I think Jimmy Hall would work a lot better," he said at a press conference this summer during the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "Obviously, back in the day I was trying to take anything that was left over on [Johnny] Carson's plate. It's a huge challenge this time to bring people to the television. But I know that everybody doesn't have a [favorite] late-night host. One of the biggest challenges for all of us as late-night hosts is to get people to even make an appointment to watch TV and not say, 'I'll watch Fallon yodel tomorrow,' because you have that ability to Google anything and find anything that's been on."

Viewers tuning in shouldn't expect any radical changes from Mr. Hall's first late-night effort.

"It's kind of the same Arsenio," he said. "Less hair, less shoulder pads but [still] inserting myself into this culture of music, comedy, pop.

"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" moved this week from WPXI to 1:30 and 3 p.m. weekdays on WPCW with new host Cedric the Entertainer, who follows previous "Millionaire" hosts Regis Philbin and Meredith Vieira.

"I just mainly wanted to be as sharply dressed as Regis and hug and kiss as many people as Meredith," Cedric joked during TCA. "And so those are the things that I'll take from the two of them. Meredith was also very passionate, very kind to the contestants, where she paid a lot of attention to them. And I think that Regis, he just kind of jumps out with a lot of wit, which you need."

Cedric the Entertainer was inspired by Steve Harvey's ability to breathe new life into "Family Feud" as its host.

"Seeing other comedians who have done it, from Drew Carey switching over doing it [on 'The Price Is Right'], Wayne Brady [on "Let's Make a Deal"] and Jeff Foxworthy [on multiple series], a lot of those guys motivated me to look at this as a great opportunity to do something fun and exciting," Cedric said.

WPCW will also air "Cops Reloaded" at 1:30 and 2 a.m. weekdays beginning next week. Reruns of "White Collar" (8 p.m. Saturday) start Sept. 28, and reruns of "Glee" begin airing at 5 p.m. Sept. 29 and 1 a.m. Sept. 30.

A new scripted drama, "SAF3" (pronounced "Safe"), will air at 3 a.m. Sunday starting Sept. 22. "SAF3" is from a "Baywatch" producer and stars J.R. Martinez ("Dancing With the Stars") and Dolph Lundgren as members of an elite unit of the Malibu Fire Department whose specialty is sea, air and fire rescues.


Those "White Collar" reruns will also turn up late-night Saturday (2:05 a.m. Sunday) beginning Sept. 29.


Channel 53 adds two new daytime series, "The Test" (10 a.m. weekdays beginning Monday) and "Paternity Court" (3 and 3:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 23).

Turns out they're kind of the same awful-sounding show. "The Test" uses DNA and lie detectors to settle paternity disputes; "Paternity Court" uses DNA tests for rulings on paternity in a courtroom setting.


Channel 22 adds the syndicated newsmagazine "America Now" (11 p.m. weekdays beginning Monday) hosted by Leeza Gibbons and Bill Rancic. The show bills itself as a "news you can use" program with upcoming episodes devoted to sextortion and cyber crimes (Monday), dog attacks (Tuesday), an oxycodone shortage and hairstyling tips (Wednesday) and tanorexia (Thursday).

"America Now" will be followed by "OK! TV" (11:30 p.m. weeknights beginning Monday), a celebrity news/gossip show.

In addition, WPMY will air "Bridezillas" reruns at 3 and 3:30 p.m. weekdays beginning Sept. 16.

Starting the week of Sept. 16 Channel 22 will offer a new evening lineup that includes reruns of "Community" (5 and 5:30 p.m.), "Modern Family" (6 and 7 p.m.) and "The Middle" (6:30 and 7:30 p.m.). "Community" reruns will also air on Comedy Central beginning with a 10-episode marathon at noon Sept. 15 and continuing with a four-episode block at 9 p.m. Friday starting Sept. 20.


Bethenny Frankel became famous through reality shows -- "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart," "The Real Housewives of New York City," "Bethenny Ever After" -- which made her a tabloid magnet, so, naturally, now she has her own talk show.

"Bethenny" (11 a.m. weekdays starting Monday) comes to Channel 11 as a multi-topic talk show with an upbeat vibe, perhaps thanks in part to one of the show's executive producers, Ellen DeGeneres.

"Bethenny" first aired as a test show last summer in some of the country's top markets, but this new version will be tweaked somewhat from its trial run.

"There's some things that I thought that didn't work," Ms. Frankel acknowledged at a summer press conference. "We came out of the gate and there was a lot of sex. There will be [talk of] sex on the show, because I think it's something that women are going through whether they're having it or not having it. But there's so much more to mention, and so many more things that I learned about women, and what they're asking me for, and what we can share together along the way, whether it's helping them to get their business ideas off the ground, or talking about just the guilt of what being a mom is."

This week Channel 11 re-aligned its afternoon lineup by expanding its noon news to one hour, followed at 1 p.m. by "The Doctors." The fourth hour of "Today" moved to 2 p.m.

Reruns of "Dog the Bounty Hunter" will air at 3 a.m. Sunday and 2:30 a.m. Monday beginning the weekend of Sept. 21 on WPXI.


Earlier this year NBCUniversal announced "Steve Harvey" would get an upgrade in several markets, including Pittsburgh, for its second season.

Turns out, that's not happening anymore. The show will continue to air on WTAE at 1:07 a.m. weekdays.

Of local note

MTV's "Scrubbing In," formerly titled "Nurses," will debut at 10 p.m. Oct. 24. The docu-series follows traveling nurses working at a hospital in Orange County, Calif., including five of the nine cast members who are from Western Pennsylvania.

Next week Pittsburgh's WPCB, CornerStone TeleVision, will debut "Real Life" (9 a.m. weekdays), a live locally produced daytime chat series that mixes music, interviews, health tips, relationship advice and conversation on current events.

New CTVN president Don Black will host the program, and co-hosts will include Teri Black, Norma Bixler, Arlene Williams, Amy Schafer, Anna Frye and Amanda Brougher. In addition, Ms. Williams will host new "At Home" cooking segments every Tuesday.

'9/11' tapes

As the Sept. 11 anniversary draws near again, several networks are planning programs tied to the attacks, but one with a different approach is Smithsonian Channel's "9-11: The Heartland Tapes" (8 p.m. Sunday).

The program has no narration or interviews but stitches together the story of Sept. 11, 2001, using video from local TV stations across the country. No video from Pittsburgh stations is used but there are images from WTAJ-TV in Altoona.

Smithsonian Channel is carried locally by Comcast (Channel 123/915HD in traditional Comcast systems, Channel 119/915HD on former Adelphia systems), Verizon's FiOS TV (Channel 134/634HD) and on DirecTV (Channel 565). It is not carried by DISH Network or Armstrong Cable.

Channel surfing

This week HBO's "The Newsroom" star Jeff Daniels tweeted that the series has been renewed for a third season, which HBO confirmed but suggested there are still some timing issues to be worked out for when the third season will go into production and air. ... Actor Alec Baldwin ("30 Rock") will host a new 10 p.m. Friday MSNBC talk show, "Up Late w/Alec Baldwin," which is expected to debut in October. ... HBO finally canceled "True Blood," which will end after a final season airs in 2014. ... A&E has canceled "The Glades" after four seasons. ... The series finale of USA's "Burn Notice" is slated to air at 9 p.m. Thursday. ... The seventh season of "Foyle's War" comes to "Masterpiece Mystery!" at 9 p.m. Sept. 15 on PBS. Episodes will be available for streaming the day after broadcast at www.acorn.tv and will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Sept. 24. ...Jenny McCarthy makes her debut as a regular co-host of "The View" on Monday. ... HBO has ordered a pilot episode of a new series based on the 1973 Yul Brenner film "Westworld" from J.J. Abrams' production company. ... CNN reactivates "Crossfire" and adds "AC360 Later" on Monday. ... WQED's Chris Fennimore will celebrate 20 years of cooking shows at 10 a.m. Sept. 21 with "Return of the Zucchini." ... Production is expected to begin in Pittsburgh Monday on A&E's crime drama series "Those Who Kill," starring Chloe Sevigny. The pilot filmed locally last December, and the series will premiere on A&E in 2014.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Unforgettable," "Big Brother" and the MDA Telethon. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Luther," "Bunheads," "The Golden Girls" and the top VOD shows in Pittsburgh. Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about "Under the Dome," FXX and Comedy Central comedians on tour. Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.


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