'Super' Station Reveals Alter Ego: Funny Channel, TBS Goes For Laughs

It's all about the laughs.

TBS plans to drop the "Superstation" from its name later this year, part of an initiative to re-brand the channel as the home for quality situation comedies and reality-based programming. Beginning June 4, it will sport a new, more youthful logo and a new slogan: "tbs very funny."

Armed with the best delivery against 18- to 34-year-olds in its history and a drop in the channel's median age (from 41 to 37), TBS executives said they were targeting young adults who are in the transitional stage of life who love and relate to comedy.

"TBS is the home for funny," said Steve Koonin, executive vice president and chief operating officer for TBS and its sister network, TNT. To that end, TBS will continue its rotation of "Seinfeld" and "Friends" plus in the summer will add "Sex and the City," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Yes, Dear." Another sitcom, "King of Queens," will join the schedule in 2006.

"We're going to be the comedic epicenter," Koonin promised.



At its upfront presentation late Thursday afternoon in New York, TBS played up "Sex and the City," arguably its highest profile acquisition, with a spoof called "Sales and the City" featuring four top Turner executives and an appearance by three of the show's stars, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis.

In an interview Thursday morning, Koonin said that when the show was on HBO it had been available in only a relatively small part of the television universe and that TBS executives felt there was a tremendous upside to airing it on a broad-distribution network. "It's a virtual original" program, Koonin said.

Koonin told MediaDailyNews that "Sex and the City" wouldn't be edited for time although it would be edited for content, with some shows sustaining significant cuts while others not cut much at all. The series will begin with a preview week in June.

In an effort to gain more young adults, TBS will also make a significant commitment to reality programming, with "Outback Jack" (where 12 American city women parachute into the Australian outback to woo an Australian hunk) and "Gilligan's Island," which will basically be an update of the classic '60s sitcom throwing a real professor, rich couple and so on onto a tropical isle. Koonin said TBS executives liked the "Gilligan's Island" concept so much that it ordered two eight-episode runs of the series sight unseen, with the first scheduled to air in December and the second in June 2005.

Koonin confirmed that both would have product placement. "Outback Jack" has already signed up SC Johnson and Verizon; talks are still ongoing for sponsors for "Gilligan's Island."

Thursday's big announcements from TBS didn't mean that its sister network, TNT, didn't have its own share of news. TNT plans to get into scripted series, both limited run and regular, in addition to the award-winning TNT Original movie series.

First up is "The Grid," a limited run series scheduled for July that focuses on the exploits of a counter-terrorism unit that stars Dylan McDermott, Julianna Margulies and Tom Skerritt. Another limited series, focusing on the history of the American West, is being executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

Also announced Thursday were "Evel Knievel," an original movie on the 1970s daredevil's life (and executive produced by Mel Gibson) and a second Johnson & Johnson Spotlight starring William H. Macy called "The Wool Cap."

TNT has also given a go to four pilots from Warner Bros. Television, of which one will end up as a recurring series on the network.

The upfront presentation at the Lexington Avenue Armory in Manhattan was capped by a 45-minute performance by former Police frontman Sting and his band.

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