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'Jeffersons' Out Of Cbs Lineup

May 08, 1985|LEE MARGULIES | Times Staff Writer

"The Jeffersons," currently TV's longest running prime-time entertainment series, was canceled after 11 seasons Tuesday as CBS unveiled a fall program lineup that will feature a new version of "The Twilight Zone" and comedy shows starring Flip Wilson and George Burns.

Having just won the prime-time ratings race for the sixth year in a row, CBS said it will add just five hours of new series programming to the weekly schedule, including a TV version of the movie "Stir Crazy" and another hourlong show inspired by the movie "The Big Chill."

Only two of the 10 series that CBS introduced this season--the Sunday night detective tandem of "Murder, She Wrote" and "Crazy Like a Fox"--were renewed for a second year. They will join such other returning CBS staples as "Dallas," "Falcon Crest," "Knots Landing," "Magnum, P.I." and "Newhart."

Besides "The Jeffersons," two other long-running shows will be missing from CBS' 1985-86 schedule in September. "The Dukes of Hazzard" was canceled earlier this year after a seven-season run, and the comedy series "Alice" wrapped up its nine-year run with a finalepisode March 19.

First-year shows that were scrubbed by CBS were "Cover Up," "E/R," "Charles in Charge," "Dreams," "Detective in the House," "The Lucie Arnaz Show," "Double Dare" and "Otherworld."

"The Jeffersons" premiered Jan. 18, 1975, as a spinoff from "All in the Family" and was noteworthy for its rough-edged depiction (albeit in comedic terms) of a black middle-class family whose feisty central character, George Jefferson, was an up-by-the-bootstraps dry cleaning store owner who was distrustful of whites. Developed by Norman Lear at a time when his comedy shows were breaking new ground on U. S. television, the series also featured a racially mixed married couple as the Jeffersons' neighbors.

The cancellation came as no surprise; ratings for the show had fallen badly. It ranked 59th among the 96 prime-time series that aired on the networks this season, down from No. 19 a year ago.

Marla Gibbs, who co-starred in "The Jeffersons" as Florence, the live-in maid to George and Louise Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford), already is set to star in "227," a comedy series for NBC next season.

Meanwhile, as CBS earlier had disclosed, the detective series "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer" was not scheduled for the fall, but it has not been canceled. The series had to shut down after its star, Stacy Keach, was imprisoned in England, charged with trying to smuggle cocaine into the country. CBS executives have said they will consider ordering new episodes of the series for midseason after meeting with Keach following his release in June.

Three nights of the current CBS schedule will return intact next season: Monday, Thursday and Sunday. Tuesday and Friday will see new 8 p.m. shows. The biggest changes are on Wednesday and Saturday, as the network plans to move its two-hour movie block from the former to the latter, giving Wednesday an all-series lineup.

The six shows that CBS plans to introduce in the fall are:

--"The Twilight Zone," a new version of Rod Serling's classic anthology series that ran on CBS from 1959 to 1965. Each hourlong episode will feature two or three stories involving science fiction, the supernatural or the macabre. The network said that while a few stories from the old series may be updated, most of them will be new. Whether there will be a host has not yet been decided, a network spokesman said.

--"Charlie and Company," a "Cosby Show"-type family comedy that will star Flip Wilson and singer Gladys Knight as a married couple in Chicago whose efforts to raise their three children are complicated by the fact that both of them work--he as an administrative assistant for the department of highways, she as an elementary school teacher.

--"George Burns' Comedy Week," a comedy anthology that Burns will host for executive producer Steve Martin. Each week will feature a new half-hour story with a different cast.

--"Stir Crazy," an hourlong action show laced with humor. Taking up where the movie left off, the series will follow two New York friends (played by Joe Guzaldo and Larry Riley) who, after being wrongfully convicted of murder, escape from a Texas prison and travel about the country--eluding authorities and looking for the actual murderer. Polly Holliday, former co-star of "Alice," will play the sheriff who pursues them, and Cynthia Sikes will play their attorney.

--"Hometown," a "Big Chill"-like series about seven college friends from the '60s who have remained close during the intervening years, despite the different paths their lives have taken--from rock stardom to business, politics, parenting and teaching. The cast includes Jane Kaczmarek, Franc Luz, Christine Estabrook, Daniel Stern, Margaret Whitton, John Bedford Lloyd and Andrew Rubin. Unlike the other series, this one will premiere in August as part of a summer block of first-run programming that CBS already had announced.

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