MEDIA PROFILE: Extra shelves showbiz to make more room for 'human'tales

If it happens in Hollywood, Extra is there. But the show's

producers like to focus more on the human angle than just the glitz and

glamour, reports Craig McGuire.

Syndicated entertainment show Extra is generally focused on all things

Hollywood, but in the light of the September 11 tragedy, many of its

entertainment stories have been shelved in favor of pieces about the

experiences of everyday folks.

As senior executive producer Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey told USA Today on

September 17, "Our slogan on Extra is 'entertainment and more.' Now

we're embracing the 'more.' We'll get back to entertainment, but we're

just telling different stories."

A recent edition of the show, which runs on a variety of networks across

the country, included a piece on how to talk to kids about the tragedy.

However, Hollywood still sits at the core of the editorial coverage, as

the same episode featured a piece about the studios' concerns over

security and the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon.

Extra is produced from Los Angeles with the help of a New York bureau,

and had been planning to step up its coverage of entertainment news

during its eighth season. The production company behind the show is Time

Telepictures Television which, in addition to the daily half-hour show,

makes an hour-long weekend edition. The total audience is around three


When Extra returns to its regular reportage, the half-hour weekday show,

fronted by Leeza Gibbons, will adhere more closely to its normal five

distinct segments: Showbiz Insider, Celebrity Justice, The Good Life

(lifestyles), Body Beautiful (health and fitness), and Eye Candy.

If you're planning to pitch the show, you'd better get with the program.

"Tailor your pitch to target one of the units, or peg it to a celebrity,

and always try to offer us something our viewers won't see anywhere

else," advises assignment manager Fatana Nawabi.

With producers typically planning longer segments than those of

competitors, Nawabi expects publicists to come up with original pitches.

"We want elements that make it an Extra story, such as unique angles,"

she says."The segments tend to offer more than just entertainment, but

also information that viewers can use and relate to."

Agency Formula PR employed the strategy of anticipating what Extra's

producers would want before they actually wanted it to land several

separate placements for client The Waismann Institute, a California

heroin detoxification and treatment facility.

"When we heard Robert Downey, Jr. was busted for possession, we saw an

opening," reflects Michael Olguin, Formula PR president. "When we know

they're going to run the story," explains Olguin, "we tell the producers

that we can make doctors and experts available, provide access to the

treatment facility, and even invite them to follow a patient through the


Remember, though you may land the spot, that doesn't always mean your

client is being best served. "Brand exposure is important, but the

company is looking to get the phones ringing," says Olguin. "We instruct

doctors and patients interviewed to always say 'the Beverly Hills-based

institute' so when you're in Podunk, IA, you know where to find us."

In order to lure Extra to the opening of Disney's California Adventure

theme park in Anaheim, CA earlier this year, Andrea Kaye, senior media

specialist at Golin/Harris, used plenty of star power. Attendees

included Jack Nicholson, Tim Allen, Roseanne, Whoopi Goldberg, the Beach

Boys, and the GooGoo Dolls, among others.

"They're going to request a good place on the red carpet, so make sure

you can deliver," she says. "Also, it's a visual medium, so they'll

probably request b-roll. Try to have it ready before you make the


Kaye also advises publicists to be aware of the realities of producing a

daily show. "Think like a journalist, and be conscious if they are on

deadline, which usually takes up most of their mornings," says Kaye. "Be

especially aware of new trends, because a show like Extra likes to

identify and help set trends."



Address: 1840 Victory Blvd., Glendale, CA 91201

Tel: (818) 972-0500

Assignment desk: (888) 339-3579

Fax: (818) 972-8910

NYC address: 1700 Broadway, 4th Fl., NY, NY 10019

Tel: (212) 506-4900


Senior Executive Producer: Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey

Executive producer: Neal Freundlich

Co-executive producer: Theresa Coffino

Assignment manager: Fatana Nawabi

Anchor: Leeza Gibbons

Weekend anchor: Dayna Devon

Correspondents: Doug Bruckner, Jerry Penacoli, Jon Kelley, Michael James

Bryant, Phil Shuman

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