Sony Pictures Television is plotting a return to the syndicated talk show arena with a half-hour late-night strip hosted by Craig Ferguson. Produced by Whisper North, a division of SPT-backed production company Whisper, Channel Surf with Craig Ferguson shot a pilot in the UK earlier this month and is being taken out to potential buyers by distributor SPT this week in Los Angeles.
Channel Surf with Craig Ferguson, which also marks the comedian’s return to late-night since leaving CBS’ The Late Late Show in 2014, will feature Ferguson and his friends as they “review the shocking, surprising and hilarious moments of the week’s shows.”
Ferguson and Whisper North managing director Tom McLennan, formerly Director of Entertainment North for ITV, will executive produce, and Richard Easter (America’s Got Talent) and Joe Bolter (The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson), who has worked with Ferguson for almost 15 years, will serve as writers on the show.
This is a rare late-night syndication entry; Arsenio Hall famously tried a revival of his popular 1990 syndicated talker with Tribune in 2013; it lasted just a season. Late-night is less crowded these days, with a number of talk shows going away including Desus and Mero and Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, and the future of The Daily Show and The Late Late Show in flux as their hosts depart.
More importantly, instead of syndicated talk shows’ traditional hourlong format, Channel Surf with Craig Ferguson is 30 minutes, with Sony targeting late-night slots currently occupied by sitcom reruns as fewer and fewer comedies enter the off-network syndication market.
“With a shortage of sitcoms available for stations, viewers need a place to laugh. Channel Surf is that perfect show,” said Zack Hernandez, SVP, US Syndication Sales, SPT. “Craig shot a hilarious pilot, and we can’t wait to reintroduce our buyers to him and look forward to giving audiences a chance to watch this very funny show.”
Following the end of his Late Late Show run, Ferguson hosted the syndicated Celebrity Name Game, ABC’s The Hustler and History’s Join or Die.
“I wanted to do Channel Surf because I think television is ready for the return of the silly/ funny/ occasional lip-synching puppet format. Also, it’s a TV show which contains clips of questionable moments from other TV shows thus creating a spectacular visual turducken of stupid,” Ferguson said.
As for SPT, which is behind syndicated juggernauts Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, the studio has largely stayed away from the daytime syndicated talk-show space, which has become very difficult to make money in, especially for a studio not affiliated with a station group. Its last remaining daytime strip, The Dr. Oz Show, as well as its spinoff The Good Dish, ended last season.
Ferguson, who is coming off a stand-up comedy tour in North America last year, is repped by WME, Vault Entertainment and Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman. (Deadline)