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IN THE KNOW /A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

Reality Checks for the Season's New Shows

September 29, 1997

The major networks premiered 15 new series last week as the 1997-98 television season officially got underway, and a fair number of viewers sampled many of those new shows. This week, however, may be more crucial in determining success--namely, who comes back for second helpings. Some series given early starts have already seen a portion of their audience slip away, such as ABC's new dramas "Nothing Sacred" and "Cracker," which ran into a buzz saw last Thursday when NBC premiered "Friends" and "Seinfeld." In similar fashion, CBS' "Dellaventura," starring Danny Aiello, did reasonably well at 10 p.m. last Tuesday--but that was up against an episode of "The Practice," not "NYPD Blue," which begins its fifth season this week. The networks can take some consolation in the fact that many viewers still appear willing to take a look at new series, but with most people receiving more than 40 channels, their patience level seems to be getting shorter all the time. Already sensitive about stories charting their declining audience, the networks will be watching this week's ratings closely to get a sense of just how long this season is going to be.

Whoa, Dude! Jakob's Dad Is in a Band!? We all know that Jakob Dylan and his band the Wallflowers can sell millions of records, but can his father? That's the question industry observers are asking as Columbia Records on Tuesday releases "Time Out of Mind," the 41st album by rock legend Bob Dylan. It's the first collection of all-new Dylan songs since 1990's "Under the Red Sky," and it has drawn some glowing reviews. But the 56-year-old singer-songwriter hasn't had a Top 20 album since 1983's "Infidels" or a Top 10 album since 1979's "Slow Train Coming." His last collection of songs, a much-ballyhooed "MTV Unplugged" package in 1995, has sold only about 300,000 copies. "If the new album is as good as some of the reviews say it is," said a local retailer, speaking on condition of anonymity, "I think it will sell, but it's not going to do big, big numbers." For one thing, the retailer said, the record probably won't receive much radio airplay "because his music's not really in vogue, per se." Says Rita Wilde, music director at KLOS-FM (95.5): "Obviously, the fans want to hear the old stuff, but I think they'll be tolerant of the new stuff because it's really, really good. I think he definitely still has an audience." And maybe divine intervention will help: The pope attended Dylan's concert Saturday in Bologna, Italy.

More Shorts Than You Can Shake a Stick At Is this town big enough for two short-film festivals? Fans will get their answer Friday through Sunday, when the first Los Angeles International Short Film Festival is staged at Barnsdall Art Park at the same time the second Festival of Short Films unspools at the Pacific Design Center. The latter event is the brainchild of three Castle Rock Entertainment executives, Jeffrey Stott, Alan Bell and Tammy Glover, who wanted to provide a forum for this underexposed aspect of filmmaking. Among the films on the schedule are Susan Harmon's "The Taming Power of Small," Gil Cates Jr.'s "Screening" and Nicholas Goodman's "Swing Blade," a takeoff of last year's indie hits "Slingblade" and "Swingers." The "Sling Blade" theme carries over to the Barnsdall festival, which includes among its 65 films "Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade," which director George Hickenlooper will discuss at a question and answer session afterward. "What we're trying to do is create an event where filmmakers can network," said festival coordinator Gina Fegan, adding that panels will focus on such practical topics as "Improve Your Pitch," "Actors Meet Directors" and "My First Indie." The two festivals follow this past weekend's Santa Monica Film Festival, which featured short films, including Rob Lowe's "America Untitled." Explained John De Simio, a spokesman for the International Short Film Festival: "I guess this is the short film manifestation of the so-called El Nino effect."

--Compiled by Times staff writers and contributors

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