May 26, 1986
Executives Ready for Prime Time
By James P. Forkan
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)
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
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.
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
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"
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
remains bullish on its movies, 10 of which had 30-plus Nielsen
shares; he sees "Newhart" as vulnerable and "Cagney
& Lacey" as "weakening."
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.
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"
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
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
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
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
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.
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,"
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
since ABC's "Starman" is a "misplaced"
youth-oriented series that would play better at 8 p.m. Mr.
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
NBC's "biggest turnaround" night, at ABC's expense,
will find "227" airing earlier this fall, Mr.
because Marketing Evaluations' Q ratings indicate it scores as
well with youngsters as "Who's the Boss?" "Golden
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.
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.