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Wayans’ Talk Show Is Canceled

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After more than six months of mediocre ratings and backstage difficulties, “The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show,” a late-night talk show geared to young urban audiences, has been canceled.

Mort Marcus, president of Buena Vista Television, which produced and distributed the syndicated show, said the decision to shelve the program was a painful one.

But “with the ratings not reaching a higher level and the expense necessary to produce this kind of show, it has become clear that we must make this difficult business decision,” Marcus said in a prepared statement.

Production has already been shut down on the series, which airs locally on KTTV-TV Channel 11 at 11 p.m. Repeats are planned through the end of April, with a final air date still to be set.

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Although the pulling of the plug came abruptly, it was not entirely unexpected. A cloud had been cast over the show’s future with the recent announcement that “The Magic Hour,” a syndicated talk show from Twentieth Television hosted by basketball legend Magic Johnson, would be premiering in June on Fox stations that currently carry Wayans’ show.

The Johnson series would have pushed Wayans’ show into later time periods where less viewers are available.

The ouster of the Wayans show means that “The Magic Hour” will most likely get wider station clearance around the country, sources said. It also is expected to help “Vibe,” the syndicated late-night talk show that launched the same day “Wayans” did last August and which targeted the same audience.

Columbia TriStar Television Distribution, which distributes “Vibe,” said the show has already been renewed for a second season in 85% of the country. Producers of “The Magic Hour” have said they are going after a much larger mainstream audience than “Wayans” and “Vibe.”

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“The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show,” hosted by the creator and star of the acclaimed Fox series “In Living Color,” had debuted with great fanfare. Both Wayans and “Vibe” hoped to attract young audiences who felt abandoned in the late-night arena since the departure of Arsenio Hall’s talk show in 1994.

But despite high viewership in the first week, both shows soon fell off dramatically in the ratings and were plagued by numerous problems. Several key people at “Wayans,” including executive producer Charlie Parsons and his British-based Planet 24 company, departed, while “Vibe” ousted its original host, Chris Spencer. He was eventually replaced by current host Sinbad.

Both shows continued to struggle. “Wayans” in February averaged a paltry 2 million national viewers per night, down 6% from November, while “Vibe” in February averaged approximately 1.8 million viewers a night, a decrease of 12% from last November.

Insiders said the weekly cost of producing the “Wayans” show was around $1 million, and that the expenditure was not justified by the show’s faltering ratings.


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