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'The Lookout' on ABC focuses on consumers
Yes, Cynthia McFadden, Bill Weir and Terry Moran of ABC's "Nightline" are still at work at ABC News, and this summer, even non-insomniacs can see them.
The "Nightline" team is behind "The Lookout," a prime-time newsmagazine that has gotten off to a slow start on 10 p.m. Wednesday. "The Lookout" is both a chance for the journalists to try something new and an olive branch from network bosses for evicting "Nightline" from a time slot it held for three decades.
At the same time, "Nightline" is changing its focus to respond to a shift that has it starting at 12:37 a.m. now.
"The Lookout" emphasizes consumer issues with a mix of investigative and trend stories, striving for a hip look. Weir went to Switzerland to hunt an infomercial king that the United States is seeking to pay back customers he misled about a weight-loss product. In a McFadden report, a house with a mold problem was rigged with hidden cameras and contractors were brought in to estimate repair costs.
Jeanmarie Condon, executive producer for both "Nightline" and "The Lookout," used to work on consumer-oriented programming on the former newsmagazine "Primetime Live." She believes it's an underserved area in network news.
"Nobody doesn't care about getting good value for their money -- rich, poor, young and old," she said.
ABC is trying to tell the stories in a fresh way, McFadden said. Some graphics, like identifying people on the screen with written names and an arrow, seemed tailored to entice a younger audience to watch news programming that usually skews older.
"I don't think we're setting out to make the stories entertaining," McFadden said. "You can get into a lot of trouble when you stop focusing on the journalism and start making it -- quote -- entertaining."
The first airing of "The Lookout" attracted 4.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That was lower than "60 Minutes," two episodes of "Dateline NBC," two episodes of "20/20," even Brian Williams' soon-to-exit "Rock Center." CBS' news series on the Brooklyn district attorney's office got a larger audience, but "The Lookout" did better among young people.
Unlike a series of prime-time specials that aired in the summer of 2011, the new series doesn't carry the "Nightline" name. Condon said she thought it would be confusing to viewers.
"This isn't 'Nightline' at 10 o'clock," Condon said. "It's not the same show with the same mix of stories that you would get at 12:30. It's made by the same people and infused with the same sensibility, which we think is a good one."