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WBAL once again passes on show hosted by home-grown comic


Comedian Jeff Marder has a perfect score: He has landed two late-night shows on CBS, and neither has been seen in Baltimore, the town where he grew up.

"I think my family's over it," the Towson State University alumnus says wryly, speaking over the telephone from California, where he is taping a 13-week run of "A Perfect Score."

The new series, a relationship game show along the lines of "The Dating Game," joined the CBS late-night lineup last week, replacing "Night Games," another relationship show for which Mr. Marder was the host.

But local CBS affiliate WBAL (Channel 11) is not carrying "A Perfect Score," nor did it carry "Night Games." The new show is not seen on Washington CBS affiliate WUSA (Channel 9), either.

"Unfortunately, we are not able to clear it at the present time," says Emerson Coleman, WBAL program manager, of "A Perfect Score." However, he leaves open the possibility of picking up the show later, perhaps in July.

"It boils down to the buck," Mr. Marder says succinctly of the Baltimore eclipse and affiliate programming problems that have plagued CBS attempts to stabilize a late-night schedule for years now.

Especially since the high-profile bomb that was "The Pat Sajak Show," many CBS stations have found they can land more viewers by doing their own programming.

In this case, says Mr. Coleman, WBAL is running the syndicated and well-rated "Arsenio Hall Show" at 11:30 p.m. and is committed into July to carrying the syndicated "Dennis Miller Show" at 12:30 a.m.

At 1:30 a.m., the station sells a 30-minute block for commercial programming, and at 2 a.m. reruns its own 11 p.m. newscast before joining CBS' "Up to the Minute" overnight newscast.

"A Perfect Score" is intended to air at 1 a.m., and a CBS spokesman says 110 affiliates have picked up the show, a little more than half the national total.

Mr. Marder's best hope for local exposure of "A Perfect Score," says Mr. Coleman, hinges on "The Dennis Miller Show," whose ratings have been middling at best. July is the month for the show to prove itself, the local programmer says, and should it leave the schedule "we may very well look at 'CBS Late-Night Two.'"

CBS offers its late-night programs to affiliates in two parts, including an hour of "Crime Time After Prime Time" nightly action shows, and two half-hour relationship shows, "Personals" and now "A Perfect Score."

Mr. Marder's Baltimore roots, says Mr. Coleman, "would be the key reason to look at it. You look for any angle, and a local connection certainly is a plus."

In the meantime, Mr. Marder plugs a more certain local appearance.

"Baltimore will have a chance to see me live when I open for Smokey Robinson at Pier Six on Aug. 14," he says.

"I never thought I would end up having this be a part of what I do, a relationship show," says Mr. Marder, whose unique stand-up comedy routine involves the use of two microphones -- for unrelated jokes from the right and left sides of his brain.

A one-time participant in the Center Stage Actor's Workshop (when he was a Pikesville High student), Mr. Marder was a runner-up on "Star Search" and has appeared on the "Evening at the Improv" comedy series, "The Tonight Show" and the "MTV 1/2 -Hour Comedy Hour."

The new game show, he says, uses the premise that often one's friends have the best idea of who would make a good date. So each show features three people choosing a date for another, and also includes taped coverage of the couple's first evening out together.

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