"The Jim J. & Tammy Faye Show" is being billed by its producers as a breakthrough programming concept that will resuscitate the daytime TV talk show genre, under attack for what some view as unacceptable program topics.
"You may think this is crazy," admitted Worldvision President-CEO John Ryan, "but it just might work."
Mr. Ryan, whose Worldvision will distribute the show in partnership with the Partner Stations Network and foxlab, said the syndicated series will bypass the normal TV station marketing route by rolling out before the National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas in January.
The show will launch Dec. 26 on about 30 stations that are members of PSN, a partnership formed by five TV station broadcast groups that jointly develop and own new programming. The Fox TV stations production unit called foxlab is also partnering on the production.
By bringing an up-and-running new series to NATPE with a track record of audience research, Mr. Ryan said Worldvision hopes to convince many stations that are looking for midseason replacements to existing daytime talk shows to make the switch to "Jim J. & Tammy Faye."
"Our stations are feeling the backlash of some of the recent comments from advertisers and from the community on the all-time low that some of the talk shows have stooped to in recent months," added Michael Lambert, president and general partner of PSN. "Admittedly, if the shows were doing higher ratings, perhaps we'd all be less concerned about that. But the combination of low ratings and base topics has caused us to reach for something different."
That difference, he said, would come from the unlikely pairing of Ms. Messner and Mr. Bullock.
Ms. Messner was involved with development of several TV ministries, including the scandal-ridden PTL Club with former husband Jim Bakker. Mr. Bullock previously was a star of syndicated series "Too Close for Comfort" and was a regular on NBC's "ALF."
Mr. Lambert said the show wouldn't deal with sexually oriented topics, but would opt for upbeat general interest concepts and guests in much the same way as Buena Vista Television's successful "Live With Regis & Kathie Lee," which is one of the few talk shows showing audience gains.
Messrs. Lambert and Ryan said it will be primarily from the chemistry between Ms. Messner and Mr. Bullock that the show would generate viewer appeal.
Mr. Ryan said the 1-hour weekday show would be carried by stations between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and that it would seek to broaden the audience appeal of the current crop of new daytime talk shows targeting younger viewers.
The show is being sold to stations on a cash-plus barter basis, with New York-based Worldvision selling national ad time to national advertisers.
Messrs. Ryan and Lambert couldn't say what immediate coverage plans were for "Jim J. & Tammy Faye," but emphasized that the early rollout wasn't a test and that the show is committed for a minimum of 34 weeks, which will take it to next September-at which point they expect it to have true national coverage.