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Talk will once again be the talk of this week's National Association of Television Programming Executives conference in Las Vegas.

Although a bumper crop of syndicated talk shows introduced at last year's NATPE gathering failed to produce a single verifiable hit, more than a dozen new talk shows are being pitched this year, making it the hottest programming genre for the 1995-96 syndicated TV season.

The talk hopefuls are motivated by the continued success of veterans such as King World's "Oprah Winfrey Show" and Columbia TriStar Television Distribution's sophomore "Ricki Lake Show."

Columbia will try to match that success by again targeting younger viewers with "The Tempestt Bledsoe Show," a 1-hour weekday strip starring the former teen-age star of "The Cosby Show."

Warner Bros. is also capitalizing on the youth talk show interest with its "Carnie," hosted by Carnie Wilson, and Genesis Entertainment is offering a male counterpart, "Mark Walberg."

"There are a lot of Ricki Lake wanna-bes," said Bill Carroll, VP-director of programming of the Katz Television Group.

Mr. Carroll said openings were also created by the shift of many traditional network affiliates to Fox or independents that don't carry daytime network shows.

Affiliate changes have also produced joint ventures and strategic alliances between TV station groups that are now starting their own syndicated series.

"The Group W and CBS alliance has spawned [the news magazine] `Day & Date.' Fox and New World are launching `Mark Walberg' via New World's Genesis Entertainment. And Fox is offering `Gabrielle' Carteris [a talk show]. What you really have in these shows are programs that have sufficient clearances to launch without even going to any additional stations," said Mr. Carroll.

Among Katz's talk show recommendations for stations at this year's NATPE conference are: Rysher Entertainment's "George & Alana" for traditional affiliates, "Carnie" for independents and Fox affiliates, and Buena Vista Television's "The Stephanie Miller Show" for "anyone in late-night."

Among reality shows, Katz picks Twentieth Television's "America's Most Wanted: Final Justice" for Big 3 affiliates and "LAPD" for independents.

"Baywatch" spinoff "Baywatch Nights" is a favorite first-run show for any station, but Katz also recommends new versions of some familiar titles: "Outer Limits," "Flipper" and "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew."

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