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CBS Erases 'Ink,' Pens in Bob Newhart

The new TV season: CBS orders six new programs, including a Steven Bochco drama and series starring David Caruso and Danny Aiello. Also: a newsmagazine hosted by Bryant Gumbel.

May 22, 1997|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CBS has ordered a half-dozen new programs to premiere in September in addition to acquiring two long-running ABC shows, "Family Matters" and "Step by Step," which will anchor a new Friday night comedy block.

The network, which officially announces its lineup today, also will schedule a prime-time newsmagazine hosted by former "Today" anchor Bryant Gumbel, dramas starring David Caruso and Danny Aiello, and a comedy teaming veteran sitcom stars Bob Newhart and Judd Hirsch.

Meanwhile, two highly touted comedies featuring former members of the "Cheers" cast that were introduced this season, "Ink" (starring Ted Danson) and "Pearl" (Rhea Perlman), have been canceled.

Sources say "Ink's" production company, DreamWorks, offered to reduce the price CBS paid for the show as an incentive to secure its renewal, but to no avail. "Ink," which co-starred Danson's wife, Mary Steenburgen, cost CBS at least 50% more than the average new sitcom.

In assembling its schedule, the network also dropped "Dave's World," the Larry Hagman show "Orleans," "Temporarily Yours," "Moloney," "Feds," "EZ Streets," and the long-gone "Public Morals," "Almost Perfect" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith."

Though officials wouldn't comment, CBS is expected to eliminate one of its movie slots and rely instead on dramatic series, in the process renewing such marginally rated programs as "Early Edition," "Promised Land" and "JAG."

NBC pursued a similar strategy by replacing its Monday movie with comedies and an extra edition of "Dateline NBC." Having two networks take that action would represent a blow to producers of made-for-TV movies, significantly decreasing the opportunity to produce such fare.

The sitcoms migrating over from ABC will be paired Friday nights with two new shows: "Meego," starring "Perfect Strangers' " Bronson Pinchot as an alien nanny; and "Square One," with Gregory Hines as a widower raising a 12-year-old son. By doing so, CBS directly takes on ABC for the youth market the network has controlled for years with its "TGIF" lineup.

CBS is expected to move "Chicago Hope" off Monday nights to make room for a new program, most likely "Brooklyn South," a hard-boiled police drama from producer Steven Bochco that stars Jon Tenney. The show is Bochco's first drama for CBS (he flopped last year with the sitcom "Public Morals") after a lengthy affiliation with ABC.

Caruso--an alumnus of Bochco's current police series, "NYPD Blue"--plays a tough federal prosecutor in "Michael Hayes," marking his return to television after two disappointing films. "The Last Don's" Aiello also joins the lineup as "Dellaventura," a private eye who, like "The Equalizer," helps those in need.

Sources say those two shows will air Tuesdays, returning Caruso to the night he previously patrolled on "NYPD Blue."

Newhart and Hirsch ("Taxi") are cast as mismatched in-laws in "George & Leo," which has been compared to "The Odd Couple." Sources say the show will join the network's Monday lineup, while "Murphy Brown" moves to Wednesdays.

CBS halted its ratings slide this season, finishing second to NBC in overall viewership while ABC dropped into third place. The network's goal now is to begin broadening its appeal among younger audiences, where CBS still ranks fourth.

The network will have a springboard to introduce additional series later in the season by virtue of broadcasting the Winter Olympics from Nagano, Japan. The event will provide two weeks of big audiences in February to help promote new series, and CBS is already planning to roll out a few shows after the Games in March.

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