" FREEZE!!! "
That is fall's operative crime-busting word on bang-banging, pow-powing, blood-bleeding, car-chasing ABC, which is trying to shoot its way out of the ratings basement.
And the strategy will work if ABC's Nielsen count matches its body count.
Trying to rebound from its prime-time debacle of last season, ABC opens with one comedy among eight new series. Seven other new series are cops-and-robbers types, at least six of them gratuitously, revoltingly violent and some celebrating vigilante-style heroes who function either outside the system or within it as rebels.
Violence is back, all the way back. So much so that two of ABC's more savage new series are deployed in kiddy prime time at 8 p.m.
And the shoot-'em-up, chew-'em-up-and-spit-'em-out super-cop heroine of "Lady Blue"--a limited series scheduled to give way in mid-November to "Dynasty II: The Colbys"--has deservedly been nicknamed Dirty Harriet.
The remaining ABC new show, the unpreviewed "Lime Street" starring Robert Wagner, is a question mark as of this writing because of the recent death of one of its cast members, 13-year-old Samantha Smith.
NBC and CBS are greeting the new season more responsibly than ABC.
Coming off its most successful prime time in years, NBC is adding six shows to its schedule, consisting of four dramas and two comedies featuring such past sitcom stars as Bea Arthur ("Maude") and Marla Gibbs ("The Jeffersons"). The NBC dramas were unavailable for preview at deadline time.
Six new series--two comedies and four dramas--join the fall schedule on first-place CBS, four of them on a revamped Wednesday night. One CBS newcomer, "Hometown," premiered in late summer, as did two other short-run series, "I Had Three Wives" and the news magazine "West 57th." By earning weak ratings, both may have damaged their chances of returning later on a permanent basis.
Monday No New Prime-Time Monday Shows. Some may be launched later this season. TUESDAY SHOW: "Hometown," 8 p.m. CBS (Now airs Thursdays, premiering in this time period Sept. 24). FORMAT: Lighthearted drama. Old friends have abandoned their idealism of the '60s and '70s for the Establishment of the '80s. CAST: Jane Kaczmarek, Franc Luz, Christine Estabrook, Daniel Stern, Margaret Whitton, John Bedford-Lloyd, Andrew Rubin. VERDICT: Kaczmarek is standout in "The Big Chill" lookalike. But characters are mostly empty and uninteresting.
SHOW: "Growing Pains," 8:30 p.m. ABC. Sept. 24 premiere. FORMAT: Role-reversing comedy. Mother gets job outside the home and father moves his psychiatry practice into the home. CAST: Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns. LAUGHS: Some. VERDICT: Appealing cast. Promising.
SHOW: "Family Honor," 10 p.m. ABC. Sept. 17 premiere. FORMAT: Drama. Two clashing families, police versus the mob. CAST: Kenneth McMillan, Eli Wallach, others. BODIES: Four. SHOOTINGS: Five. STABBINGS: One. SLUGGINGS: Six. CHASES: One. CRASHES: One. VERDICT: Superior streetwise cast and appealing premise, but trite plot is stupidly executed with unnecessary violence.
WEDNESDAY SHOW: "The Insiders," 8 p.m. ABC. Sept. 25 premiere. FORMAT: Drama. Undercover reporter and streetwise sidekick risk their lives for journalism. CAST: Nicholas Campbell, Stoney Jackson. BODIES: Two. SHOOTINGS: Three. SLUGGINGS: One. CHASES: One. CRASHES: Two. EXPLOSIONS: Two. VERDICT: Stylistic slop. Attractive cast and slick production, but heavy on violence, light on plot.
SHOW: "Stir Crazy," 8 p.m. CBS. Sept. 18 premiere. FORMAT: Hour comedy based on the theatrical movie. Two street-dumb falsely convicted prison escapees are pursued by a comic sheriff as they pursue real murderer. CAST: Joseph Guzaldo, Larry Riley, Jeannie Wilson. LAUGHS: Few. VERDICT: Much huffing and puffing over nothing. Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, where are you?
SHOW: "Charlie & Company," 8:30 p.m. CBS. Sept. 18 premiere. FORMAT: Comedy. Father perplexed by kids. CAST: Flip Wilson, Gladys Knight (sans Pips). LAUGHS: Few. COMMENTS: Awful. Geraldine, where are you?
SHOW: "Hell Town," 9 p.m. NBC. Sept. 11 premiere. FORMAT: Drama. Streetwise ghetto priest fights crime and degradation. CAST: Robert Blake. VERDICT: Unpreviewed.
SHOW: "George Burns Comedy Week," 9:30 p.m. CBS. Sept. 18. premiere. FORMAT: Half-hour comedy anthology introduced and closed by Burns. CAST: Catherine O'Hara and Tim Matheson in opener. LAUGHS: Few. COMMENTS: Occasionally inspired. But weakly written story about a female Zelig reduces even the brilliant O'Hara to mediocrity.
SHOW: "The Equalizer," 10 p.m. CBS. Sept. 18 premiere. FORMAT: Drama. Streetwise supervigilante rids streets of streetwise vermin. CAST: Edward Woodward. BODIES: Two. SHOOTINGS: Two. SLUGGINGS: One. CHASES: One. VERDICT: Absurd and gratuitously violent, erasing memory of Woodward's excellence in "Breaker Morant."