Advertising Age
May 26, 1986

Network Executives Ready for Prime Time
By James P. Forkan

(While this article has minimal information about Perfect Strangers, it is interesting to see what the complete proposed television lineup was for the Fall of 1986)

The curtain doesn't go up on the new fall prime time season until Sept. 21, but the Big 3 TV networks' programing bosses have set the stage.

Here is a night-by-night look at the rationales and strategies behind the scheduling of the new and returning programs, as offered by-Brandon Tartikoff, B. Donald Grant and Brandon Stoddard, presidents of NBC Entertainment, CBS Entertainment and ABC Entertainment, respectively.

Monday: Despite winning this night last season, CBS saw "excellent" growth possible from hammocking the compatible comedies "Taking the Town" and "Designing Women" behind returnees "Kate & Allie" and "Newhart."  Those sitcoms, Mr. Grant said, should "fit nicely in our ladies' night schedule."  Anticipating comedies from CBS and NBC in the opening hour, ABC saw "a real opportunity for adventure," with Mr. Stoddard predicting "MacGyver" will improve its showing there.  As for "Monday Night Football," Dennis Swanson, ABC Sports president, predicted another "terrific" schedule and ratings season. Mr. Tartikoff is high on the youth-aimed "ALF" sitcom and "Amazing Stories," and remains bullish on its movies, 10 of which had 30-plus Nielsen shares; he sees "Newhart" as vulnerable and "Cagney & Lacey" as "weakening."

Tuesday: ABC, which recaptured this night from NBC, foresees a "big growth year" for its three returning shows, with Mr. Stoddard seeing "Our Kind of Town's" "yuppie couple" as compatible with "Moonlighting's" duo.  NBC, "rebuilding the entire night," will pursue adults, "especially 35-plus," with Mr. Tartikoff citing Andy Griffith's "Matlock" as "in much the same fashion as [CBS'] 'Murder, She Wrote,'" and "Crime Story" as a "hard-action" male show that will put "a dent" in "Moonlighting" as "Hunter" recently did and in CBS' femme-appeal movies.  Mr. Grant thought "Wizard of Elm Street" will have a big enough adult/kid appeal to supply CBS' first "decent lead-in" in ages.

Wednesday: Solidly in ABC's win column from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), this night should now open big with "Perfect Strangers," a spring comedy hit, and "Head of the Class," Mr. Stoddard though. Mr. Tartikoff countered that "Strangers" is "leaving the nest a little early" to fight the entrenched "Highway to Heaven," now the sole drama in its time slot.  That is followed by two sitcoms in an otherwise dramatic time period, he said, noting that "Facts of Life" once did well against a much stronger "Dynasty."  At 10 p.m., "St. Elsewhere" should again beat CBS' "The Equalizer" as it did last fall, he claimed.  Mr. Grant, who had programed two urban sitcoms when he thought they would face two dramas ("MacGyver" and "Highway"), expects "Magnum, P.I." to bring new stability to a chaotic CBS night.

Thursday: NBC's runaway hits "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties" should overpower CBS' "Simon & Simon" and ABC's "Our World" nostalgia-newsmagazine, Mr. Tartikoff predicted -- and his rivals reluctantly agreed.  At 9 p.m., NBC's sitcoms should benefit as CBS' hot "Knots Landing" and ABC's fledgling "The Colbys" soaps "cancel each other out," the NBC executive claimed.  He called CBS' move "questionable," but Mr. Grant saw it as "aggressive."  The final hour, Mr. Tartikoff said, should find "Hill Street Blues" recovering against CBS' unproven "Kay O'Brien, Surgeon."  The latter, Mr. Grant stressed, is CBS' only newcomer at 10 p.m.  Moreover, "Nowhere on our schedule do we have more than one hour of consecutive new programing," in contrast to last season's overhauls.

Friday: Long a CBS night, Friday should grow now that "Scarecrow & Mrs. King" is bringing its large female following here as "a perfect fit" with Dallas, Mr. Grant said.  The young urban adult viewership of "Twilight Zone," this past season's lead-in, was incompatible with "Dallas'" profile, he said.  Moving "Miami Vice" versus "Dallas" is "risky," Mr. Tartikoff conceded, "but we're going for the win" against "Dallas," at its lowest rating point in seven years, and ABC's two untried series.  "Vice," making its move this summer, should also bolster newcomer "L. A. Law," he added, especially since ABC's "Starman" is a "misplaced" youth-oriented series that would play better at 8 p.m.  Mr. Stoddard, positive about ABC's leadoff comedies, decided to pursue teens and children throughout the night with "The Last Electric Knight" (the top-rated "Disney Sunday Movie"), "Sledge Hammer," an offbeat cop show in the "Get Smart" mold, and "Starman."

Saturday: NBC's "biggest turnaround" night, at ABC's expense, will find "227" airing earlier this fall, Mr. Tartikoff said, because Marketing Evaluations' Q ratings indicate it scores as well with youngsters as "Who's the Boss?"  "Golden Girls," now that its rivals will focus on males, should be "even bigger," he boasted.  ABC aims to open big, seemingly slanting "Life with Lucy" and the "Ellen Burstyn Show" toward the same audience that loves "Golden Girls."  Though its rivals dismissed it, ABC lauded "Cold Steel & Neon" as "one of our strongest pilots" and Mr. Stoddard forecast "some nice strides" ahead on Saturday. NBC sees "Hunter" dominating "lackluster" returnees while Mr. Grant expects "Twilight Zone's" yuppie appeal to pay off at the later hour.  This will be an "urban night" on CBS, whose first two hours will be heavily male-oriented, Mr. Grant said.

Sunday: A big CBS night last season, in not only household ratings but also women, Sunday will be unchanged, Mr. Grant said: "If it's not broken, let's not fix it."  But NBC is out to rectify a "disappointing" night by going "after the leader" because "we think we have the horses."  "Our House," starring "Cocoon's" Wilford Brimley and described by NBC as "kind of a blend of 'The Cosby Show' and 'Little House,'" will open the night at 7 p.m., followed by two sitcoms, Loni Anderson's "Easy Street" and "Valerie."  "House" was "our strongest testing drama [pilot]," and "Easy Street" was "our strongest testing comedy," said Mr. Tartikoff, adding that Mr. Brimley ranked as "the highest tested character we've ever had in a pilot."  Those series could bring to this night the same "all-family appeal" seen on Thursday, he noted.  ABC is sticking with "Disney Sunday Movie," which Mr. Stoddard said was doing "a good job in a murderous time period," and an "improved" Sunday movie package.