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Special Report: Teens: Clueless

Last summer's surprise hit Clueless about a beguiling Beverly Hills teen pops up on the small screen September 20 with the key creative team intact and two of the main actresses from the movie on board. Produced by Paramount Television, the...
September 1, 1996

Last summer’s surprise hit Clueless about a beguiling Beverly Hills teen pops up on the small screen September 20 with the key creative team intact and two of the main actresses from the movie on board. Produced by Paramount Television, the show is targeted squarely at the teen market and has a prime-time slot on ABC’s TGIF lineup. Clearly, the network is betting the show will avoid the dismal fate of most movie-to-television adaptations.

How great are expectations for Clueless? High enough that PMK, the powerful Hollywood PR agency famous for its roster of A-list celebrity clients, has been retained to orchestrate the publicity campaign for the program. Consequently, all information about the show is tightly controlled to the press.

Fashion spreads are already in the works for several major teen magazines-including Sassy, Seventeen and YM-though PMK spokesperson Tracy Mosh says younger-skewing publications will also be considered.

‘Disney Adventures and Nickelodeon [magazines] are also of interest to us,’ says Mosh. ‘We think Clueless transcends all target audiences.’

‘The age appeal should be pretty broad,’ maintains Viacom Consumer Products marketing vice president Neil Newman, noting that his mother enjoyed the movie. ‘The clothes, the attitude and the basic sweetness of the characters are what’s going to carry it.’

His division plans to have a full line of merchandise, including Mattel dolls, board games and CD-ROMs, ready for the American International Toy Fair in February. That’s the earliest they could get products to market after the show was picked up in May.

‘It’s always tricky with a television show,’ Newman says. ‘The difference with this is that the show was for 13 episodes with no pilot. [It's] based on the equity of the movie.’

All three main female characters will have their own fashion dolls, complete with a line of costume changes, according to Newman. He concedes the core audience may be a little old for dolls, but d’esn’t think the age gap will be a problem, considering its family-friendly TGIF time slot.

‘When the program was sold, there was some concern about how it would work as a companion to Barbie,’ he says. ‘I know Mattel was extremely interested because it gives kids something to trade up to.’

A clothing line is also in the works, with details being hammered out as this issue went to press. ‘Again, because of the seasons, we have to get the timing of it right,’ he says.

According to Newman, executive producer-director Amy Heckerling and the costume director-both veterans of the movie-are actively involved in merchandising efforts ‘so products are going to be very true to the equity of the show.’

Also being explored are tie-ins with Procter & Gamble, which sponsors the program. ‘Because of their association with it, we’re trying to expand their involvement,’ Newman says.

A cross-promotion is already under way with sister publishing division Simon & Schuster, which has already released several Clueless titles for the young adult market.

‘They’ve got a lot more planned because of the TV show,’ he says. ‘It’s a particularly good thing for us because Simon & Schuster’s young adult books have added exposure. We’re not only in the toy store, but bookstores as well.’

A soundtrack is also in the works for the show following the success of the movie soundtrack, says Newman.

To kick off the show, Paramount Television has planned a major retail cross-promotion with Wet Seal and Contempo Casuals stores. A sweepstakes is reportedly part of the package, though details were sketchy at press time.

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