Mr. TV: Miami Heat

Needless to say it wasn’t hardship duty escaping the frigid temperatures in New York for the annual National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Miami Beach.

After endless years at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, NATPE headed south. But will a new location be enough to rejuvenate the once potent conference?

NATPE, of course, is not just about syndication anymore; it hasn’t been for years. New technology and the international marketplace are more of a priority. Still this is a conference about networking, and what NATPE failed to do in Miami is to get everyone back on the conference room floor. As has become the norm, the large distributors were holed up in hotel room suites, which meant a good portion of the days were spent endlessly waiting for elevators to attend small meets in isolation. Why not go back to the convention center in New Orleans where there is no immediate access to a hotel?

Anyway, my NATPE mission is always to focus on the syndication marketplace, and for the first time in many years, we have an A-list off-net sitcom heading to the marketplace: Warner Bros.’ The Big Bang Theory.

First-run talk, as always, is chock-full of contenders, led by Anderson (also from Warner Bros.) and hosted by former CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. While I often question the names pitched to host their own chat fests (including Jenny McCarthy, Bubba the Love Sponge and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition host Ty Pennington, which are thankfully not moving forward), Anderson has both the experience and the personality to succeed. Plus, he’s snagged at least five of the soon-to-be-vacated Oprah time periods.

Winfrey’s upcoming departure, of course, creates a rare chance for competing distributors in early fringe. And other names in contention to host their own talkers include controversial British radio and television broadcaster Jeremy Kyle from Debmar-Mercury, Bill Cunningham (who was tested on the Tribune stations last summer) and Lisa Oz from Sony Pictures Television.

Of the three, only Kyle has been announced as a firm go for next season. What I immediately liked about the clip I saw was how he is not necessarily the next Jerry Springer as everyone seems to think.

“This show is an honest conversation with real people; it is not about sensationalism,” Kyle told me in an interview. “We have an aftercare program available, and I want to see resolution.”

Obviously, we have heard that countless times before. But there was just something about Kyle that I find appealing. We’ll see.

Elsewhere, it seems syndication genres never die. One category poised for a comeback is the late-night game relationship half hours. CBS Television Distribution has announced clearances in about 80 percent of the U.S. for Excused, which is billed as Blind Date meets The Bachelor. Entertainment Studios is pitching Who Wants to Date a Comedian?, which is exactly what the title suggests. And Trifecta Entertainment is trying to clear Geek Meets Girl from Ashton Kutcher, creator of the similar appeal Beauty and the Geek.

Also attempting a comeback is the once prosperous weekend scripted action/adventure care of Pt. Dume from Twentieth Television, which focuses on three individuals who work closely with troubled teenagers.

The court genre could have a new occupant, meanwhile, courtesy of half-hour Last Shot With Judge Gunn from Trifecta Entertainment (with Judge Mary Ann Gunn), which will feature drug-related cases in a real courtroom, while CBS Television Distribution is still shopping The Lawyers for potential clearances. But Psychic Court from Mighty Oak Entertainment, where psychics testify as expert witnesses, is apparently not moving forward.

Psychics and court…what will they think of next? In the syndication business, or the entire broadcast medium, anything is possible.