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IN THE SPOTLIGHT

May 04, 1986|Howard Rosenberg

"NORTH AND SOUTH, BOOK II," Sunday, 9-11 p.m. (7)(3)(10)(42) (Illustrated on cover)--ABC would like to forget the 1985-86 prime-time season. Its months of gray skies have included an occasional ray of sunshine, however, the brightest being "North and South."

It won't be confused with great TV literature, but the 12-hour version of John Jakes' hot-selling, pre-Civil War novel gave desperate ABC one of its rare ratings scorchers.

It was the season's top Nielsen-rated miniseries. Viewers inexplicably went in a big way for its cotton and corn, giving ABC cause for optimism as it starts out May, an all-important ratings sweeps month that determines the advertising rates charged by most local stations.

Another 12 hours of Jakes begin Sunday, marking the first time that TV versions of a best-selling novel and its best-selling sequel are airing in the same season.

The sequel, "North and South, Book II," is based on Jakes' "Love and War" and takes the clashing characters from "North and South" through the Civil War, with members of the Hazard and Main families on opposite sides of a divided nation. Succeeding episodes will air at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The conclusion, which includes Lee's surrender at Appomattox, can be seen next Sunday at 9 p.m.

Like the earlier miniseries, the sequel is produced by Warner Brothers and David L. Wolper, whose company's greatest triumph was the translation of Alex Haley's "Roots" into one of the most-watched and most-celebrated miniseries ever.

"North and South" didn't do badly either, attracting an astounding 100 million viewers to at least some part of the telecast. In fact, only eight miniseries have drawn more households than "North and South." A Nielsen wars-weary ABC would not object to a repeat performance by the sequel.

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