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VALLEY WEEKEND

Show Returns in Search of an Audience

September 19, 1996|DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Having returned for its second season on ABC, "High Incident" is still fighting to get noticed.

The one-hour police drama had its season premiere Tuesday and now settles into a regular slot at 8 p.m. tonight. The producers make no bones about what they are trying to accomplish with this show.

All of the episodes are shot on location along the boulevards and cul-de-sacs of the San Fernando Valley. All of the stories are peopled with the stuff of daily suburban life, much of it inspired by local police blotters.

"High Incident" is based largely on the hypothesis that the Valley reflects life across America.

So far, reaction to that hypothesis has been mixed.

Critical reviews have been split. Just as one reviewer complimented the show for getting "a lot out of its fine cast," another bemoaned its "tedious look at less-than-gripping suburban Los Angeles police work."

Viewers have been similarly divided.

"High Incident" premiered in March in 55th place among 107 prime-time network programs. This summer, as ABC showed reruns along with a few episodes left over from last season, the show remained firmly in the middle of the pack.

At the same time, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose DreamWorks Television produces the show, personally lobbied ABC to give the series another chance.

The good news: The network agreed and has actively promoted the show. The bad news: The drama now lines up against NBC's powerful Thursday night squad. Preceding another marginally rated program, "Murder One," it will air directly opposite "Friends" and "The Single Guy."

However, ABC Entertainment Chairman Ted Harbert and Jamie Tarses, who recently became president of ABC Entertainment, have said they will endure low ratings as long as the show maintains its quality.

That quality will continue to have a decidedly Valley look and feel, said Charles Haid, the co-executive producer.

"We've found our little place," he said.

Now they have to find an audience.

"It's one of those shows that you either get it or you don't," Haid said. "If there are people who watch 'Touched by an Angel,' there's something for everybody."

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