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Conservatism to Mark New Season on Major Networks

May 24, 1989|STEVE WEINSTEIN

Schulman believes that CBS has staked its fall lineup on several key shows that just might lead it out of the ratings cellar. He said "Snoops," a Washington-based spy show about a crime-solving married couple, could be another "Murder, She Wrote." If that series takes off on Fridays at 8 p.m. and Lindsay Wagner's new show on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. also does well, CBS's lineup will start to look formidable, Schulman said.

He also said the new sitcom about a young man who becomes a Hollywood agent, "The Famous Teddy Z," is a funny show and well-suited for the network's Monday night comedy lineup, which includes "Murphy Brown" and "Designing Women."

ABC, which put itself at least partially on the right track this past season with its Tuesday night lineup that included ratings winners "Roseanne" and "The Wonder Years," played it rather conservatively for fall, McQueen said, by adding six new comedies, two dramas and a news magazine with Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer. But he and Frank agreed that the new schedule will help the network continue to pull in younger viewers.

"They have a lot of comedies on their schedule and they do them as well as anyone right now," Frank said.

ABC's new lineup, announced late Monday, features a half-hour show from Steven Bochco ("L.A. Law," "Hill Street Blues") about a 16-year-old doctor, a sitcom about four teen-age models, another comedy about an inner-city school teacher, a spinoff of the ABC hit "Perfect Strangers" and a weekly vehicle for comedian Jackie Mason that will follow "Roseanne" in the strong Tuesday night lineup.

Schulman said that ABC renewed its acclaimed dramas "China Beach" and "thirtysomething," despite less than glowing ratings, because advertisers are willing to pay a premium for spots on so-called "quality shows" that attract the prime "yuppie" demographic audience.

Some of the executives expressed regret that NBC, known as the innovator of such quality programs as "Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere" and "L.A. Law," essentially chose to stand pat. The first-place network, which finished first every week last season to win its fourth prime-time season in a row, added only 4 1/2 hours of new programming, including three hourlong dramas on Friday night.

"They could've made some more exciting changes," Schulman said, "but when you're doing so well, there's not much you have to change."

Overall, Frank said, the new schedules are heavy on action, adventure and male-oriented programs, specifically designed to complement the auto industry's planned introduction of new cars this fall.

"There will be some good stuff and some embarrassing stuff," Frank concluded. "But this year's schedule gives me more optimism than last season as far as finding appropriate advertising vehicles for my clients."

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