Los Angeles--With Carsey-Werner selling the third cycle of "The Cosby Show" in broadcast syndication to superstation WTBS-TV, and CBS committed to at least a second season of "Cosby," independent syndicator Peter Rodgers Organization is looking to strike a cable deal for off-network episodes of yet another Mr. Cosby vehicle: "I Spy."
The Peter Rodgers Organization has held the drama, starring Mr. Cosby and Robert Culp, back from syndication for the last three years, allowing most of its broadcast syndication deals to expire. In the meantime, the company has digitally remastered all of the 82 one-hour episodes.
At the height of its off-network success in the late 1980s, "I Spy" was cleared in more than 70 markets, although the series has been off the air in most designated market areas for the better part of the '90s. It's only major market clearance now is on KDOC-TV, Los Angeles.
"In New York, it hasn't aired in at least eight years," says Steven Rodgers, who heads the 21-year-old independent syndicator. "In Chicago, it hasn't aired in seven years.
"It's not one of those off-network series that you look at the first five minutes of an episode and say, 'Yeah, I've seen this before.'"
Mr. Rodgers had plans to reintroduce "I Spy" to the cable market long before last month's murder of Mr. Cosby's son, Ennis.
Mr. Cosby won the first of his three Emmy awards on "I Spy," which aired on NBC from 1965 to 1968. The series was shot in a different international locale each week and featured one of the first starring roles for an African American on network television.
Excerpt from "Bill Cosby, Capitalist
Randall Lan, Forbes (28 September 1992)
...The son of a Navy steward and a maid, Cosby grew up poor in North Philadelphia. Comedy came early; he dropped out of Temple University to hit the nightclub comedy circuit in 1962. He signed with the William Morris Agency and appeared on the Tonight Show within a year. From there he was discovered by producer Sheldon Leonard, who made Cosby the first black co-star on network television, pairing him with Robert Culp in 1964 for the hit detective series I Spy. Cosby won three Emmys. His pay: $1,250 an episode....