Sony mining theme weeks from 'Hatchett' library

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Sony Pictures Television is trying something new with "Judge Hatchett" next season.

Rather than offering original episodes, SPT is culling from the syndicated court show's 1,200-episode library to present 52 themed weeks, revolving around topics that could include celebrity interventions or creative sentencing.

"There are so many themes that run through the show that it's very promotable for stations," SPT president of distribution John Weiser said. "It's been really well-received."

He said the TV stations that air the strip will have 260 "unique" telecasts throughout the year, so that no episodes will be repeated during the 52 weeks.

Asked what spurred the new format, Weiser said: "We saw this as a great opportunity. We were discussing different ideas with the stations, and this is something they really responded to."

Bill Carroll, vp and director of programming at station-rep firm Katz Television Group, sees it as a good move for the studio and the stations.

"Given the multitude of episodes they have in the library, they're able to theme the programs and get the biggest advantage over the production that they've already done," he said. "And for stations, from a promotional standpoint, it will be easier to promote theme weeks."

In addition, viewers aren't likely to notice that the show is not airing originals, Carroll said.

"I don't think any viewer will initially know the difference between a program that was produced two weeks ago and one that was produced two years ago," he said.

"Hatchett," which is presided over by Judge Glenda Hatchett, is in its eighth season.

SPT also distributes the court strips "Judge David Young" and "Judge Maria Lopez" and is launching a new court show, "Judge Karen," in the fall 2008.
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