BET alum Big Tigger back on the small screen in 'Direct Access'

BYE, Melina Kanakaredes! Hi, Sela Ward! She'll play a D.C. transplant when
BYE, Melina Kanakaredes! Hi, Sela Ward! She'll play a D.C. transplant when "CSI: NY" returns -- on Friday nights. (Timothy White - Via Bloomberg News)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WDCW's "Direct Access With Big Tigger" is getting a tryout in a much larger arena.

The Washington-based late-night infotainment series, which is produced by our market's Tribune-owned CW affiliate, has been picked up for a 10-week run on Tribune-owned stations in Philadelphia, which is the country's fourth-largest TV market; Dallas (No. 5); and Hartford, Conn. (No. 30). Washington is the country's ninth-largest market.

Hosted by radio DJ and former BET host Big Tigger (a.k.a. Darian Morgan), the half-hour show primarily interviews music artists and covers events in the D.C. area. Since its premiere, interviews have included Ludacris, T-Pain, Trey Songz, Common, Janelle MonaƩ and Melanie Fiona, along with actors Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan and Marlon Wayans.

When "Direct Access" debuted in April, it aired Saturdays at 9 p.m. briefly but was moved to Saturdays at 11 p.m. Since that move, it has been averaging 11,100 people here in Washington -- in the time slot where "Sex and the City" reruns had been averaging about 3,000 fewer viewers one year ago.

"Direct Access's" Friday reruns at midnight are actually snagging a larger crowd -- averaging 18,200 viewers, which is about 1,000 more than "The Bernie Mac Show" repeats clocked in the same time slot a year ago.

WDCW general manager Eric Meyrowitz told the TV Column that during the test run, Tigger's show will continue to be Washington-based but will look for opportunities to take the show on the road for big-ticket music events that speak to the audience. The most recent episode sent correspondent Katie Rost to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival, celebrating African American music and culture.

Shakeups on 'CSI: NY'

One day after CBS announced that "CSI: NY" star Melina Kanakaredes -- an "amazing talent" who has forged "amazing . . . friendships" -- is leaving the show, the network said Tuesday that Sela Ward would replace Kanakaredes on the procedural crime drama.

Ward will play an "experienced investigator from Washington, D.C., whose work is driven by her empathy for the victim," CBS said.

Washington just became 10 percent hotter.

"CSI: NY," the most ratings challenged of Jerry Bruckheimer's "CSI" franchise (which also includes "CSI: The Mothership" and "CSI: David Caruso"), is in the throes of massive upheaval.

First, of course, is this big cast change. New cast member Ward is best known for her starring role in the '90s NBC chick-drama "Sisters," followed by a gig on ABC's "Once and Again."

But, more recently, she had a recurring role on Fox's "House" in this century, in which she played Hugh Laurie's back-on-the-scene ex-girlfriend and became kinda famous for having absolutely zero chemistry with Laurie in the sack, though we're sure there was fault all around.

The show has also been yanked out of its safe Wednesday 10 p.m. time slot to make way for a new Las Vegas lawyer drama starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell called "The Defenders." "CSI: NY," meanwhile, has been deployed by CBS to fight the good fight on Friday nights.

CBS has owned Friday nights for a while now but last season stumbled in the ratings, and now the night is considered up for grabs and, surprisingly, all the major broadcasters are going after it -- especially the 10 p.m. time slot.

CBS canceled "Ghost Whisperer" and hopes "CSI: NY" at 9 will provide a good lead-in audience for its new Tom Selleck cop drama "Blue Blood" at 10.

But NBC has put its most CBS-esque drama, the new Jimmy Smits lawyer show, "Outlaw," on at 10. And ABC has scheduled its most CBS-esque drama, the Dana Delaney medical-crime show "Body of Proof," at 10.

"CSI: NY" has really got its work cut out for it.

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