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Retro : The Bridge to Brooklyn : BRAVO SELECTS CANCELED SERIES FOR ITS 'TV TOO GOOD FOR TV'

August 28, 1994|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gary David Goldberg is thrilled that Bravo has chosen his acclaimed 1991-93 CBS series "Brooklyn Bridge" as the latest offering on its "TV Too Good for TV" showcase.

(During the past year, "Twin Peaks" and "Max Headroom" have found a new home on the cable channel.)

"Brooklyn Bridge," which premiered to great acclaim in September, 1991, is a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama based on creator-executive producer Goldberg's childhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., circa 1956. Danny Gerard plays 14-year-old Alan Silver, a middle-class Jewish youngster who loves his Brooklyn Dodgers. Alan lives in an apartment house with his father George (Peter Friedman), a postal worker; his mom Phyllis (Amy Aquino), and 9-year-old brother Nathaniel (Matthew Louis Siegel). The glue holding the family together are Alan's maternal grandparents, the strong-willed Sophie (Marion Ross) and the firm but charming Jules (Louis Zorich), who live in the same apartment building.

Despite positive reviews and numerous Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, the series never became a ratings hit. Within its first four months on the air, "Brooklyn Bridge" had four different time slots.

"I know everyone whose show was canceled, no matter what, believes (the reason) was the time slot," says Goldberg, who was also the creator and producer of the long-running NBC sitcom "Family Ties."

"But actually we never had a time slot. I think that really hurt us, especially with our viewers, who, I don't think were necessarily watching tons of other shows. It was hard for them to keep up with the information. Television viewing is such a habit and that habit never got developed. In my own mind, I believe they never gave it a chance by leaving it in one place. I knew we were in trouble when my brother called and said, 'When is it on?' He couldn't find us."

Another problem was that "Brooklyn Bridge" was a half-hour series without a laugh track. Episodes were both funny and dramatic. "We used to say in our meetings all the time what goes on 'Brooklyn Bridge' shouldn't be on any other show. You shouldn't be able to tune in on another show and get that kind of experience that you can here. I think the coin of comedy has been diminished and, basically, what comedy is at the moment is just a lot of screaming and yelling and insults. We felt that sometimes we were comedic and sometimes we were dramatic. We had respect for the audience. We just wanted to present the information and let people decide if they wanted to laugh or not."

Goldberg says he's thrilled that every week approximately 9 million people tuned into the series. "They sought it out no matter where it was. That's very satisfying for me. If it wasn't for the ratings numbers that would come on the sheet each week, I would have thought we were a huge hit just because of the people stopping me on the street, and the same thing with Marion.

"She said she was stopped more on this than 'Happy Days.' But whatever, it didn't translate into what is the only coin of recognition that really matters right now, which are these ratings. The measurements that exist now only measure gross numbers. They don't measure involvement, attachment or depth of viewing."

There was never any talk of doing the series for cable or syndication after CBS canceled it, Goldberg said. The series was too expensive to produce. "It was very hard with the kids. If you have 20 kids (on a show) you need welfare workers, you need teachers. Then what happens is that if you have a period piece, you have extras and extras need hair, makeup and clothes. We always felt we needed a lot of extras, and just to do it right it became very expensive."

Goldberg is currently producing and co-writing the new Fox feature comedy "Bye Bye Love" with Matthew Modine, Paul Reiser and Randy Quaid. "It's going to be nice. It is basically about three guys who are divorced and it's about the 48 hours when they each have custody of their kids."

Goldberg doesn't rule out doing another TV series, but says that after "Brooklyn Bridge" he was "deeply wounded. You want to say, 'I am out of here,' but I think that's a bad response to what happened. Over the last year or so, I've had time to think about it. I think I was given an extraordinary opportunity to do that show. I should just really focus on that. As a writer, I think it is very hard to say, 'I am going to turn my back on that audience.' It's just too wonderful an opportunity to get into a large-scale interaction and relationship with a really large group of people. It's hard to give that up.

"Brooklyn Bridge" airs weeknights at 7 and repeats at 2 a.m. on Bravo.

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