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ABC plans strong race

ABC plans strong race

ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert told visiting advertisers that next season his network "shouldn't be counted out of any race -- demographic or household."

Flanked by executive VP of prime time Stu Bloomberg, Harbert ran down the network's development slate, saying ABC would probably "fight our battles elsewhere" and leave its Monday lineup intact, that "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" has "an excellent chance" of returning to its current time period Tuesdays and that the ultimate fate of "The Jackie Thomas Show" won't be decided until May -- hopefully, he joked, by his boss, ABC TV Network Group chief Robert Iger.

Harbert also noted wryly that ABC's strategy remains "to go after the (age) 18-49 audience, except where we don't"-- a reference to Thursdays, where "Matlock" has proven a solid household ratings success and the network is looking for an appropriate bridge to "PrimeTime Live" in the 10 p.m. hour. There has even been speculation the network will test its 10 p.m. Saturday hit "The Commish" at 9 o'clock Thursdays to see if that works, in which case ABC could go all-reality on Saturday night.

ABC offered few other details about the Saturday gambit, however, where the network is developing a number of variety shows to program TV's most difficult night -- most prominently a two-hour block from HBO Independent Prods. and an hour from "America's Funniest" maestro Vin DiBona. One of DiBona's current shows , "America's Funniest People," will be benched in April to make room for "Dinosaurs""Dinosaurs" Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

Harbert cited Wednesday as a night with great potential for all four prime time programmers, since each currentlyoffers one strong hour. Bloomberg singled out the George Foreman vehicle "George," from Columbia Pictures TV, as a candidate for that night at 8 p.m.

Bloomberg (introduced by Harbert as "Stu Buttafuoco") also entreated advertisers to keep an open mind regarding Steven BochcoSteven Bochco's "NYPD Blue," a cop drama that Bochco has said will be the equivalent of a "PG-13" TV show, with harsher language and at least partial nudity. "Have a little patience and reserve judgment," he asked the group.

Bochco has previously pushed TV standards on "Civil Wars," though that show's fate seems pretty clear, since star Peter Onorati is doing a sitcomsitcom pilot through network in-house wing ABC Prods.

Touting ABC's performance this season, Harbert said it's the only network to record a year-to-year gain --"not a huge improvement," he quipped, "but enough to get Bob Iger that big swell job in New York." Iger was promoted to his current slot in January.

ABC is supplying itself with five pilots (four through ABC Prods. and another from ABC/Kane Prods.), while Sony Pictures Entertainment totals seven pilots (five from Columbia, two from TriStar) and Lorimar, currently ABC's top supplier , has four ABC hopefuls.

In addition to Judith Light, Joanna Kerns of "Growing Pains" will returns to the network, and Brian Dennehy will star in his first series. A breakdown of ABC's current pilot roster follows:


"Buddies"-- The lives of two best friends (Ritch Shydner, Rick Ducommun) change when one of them gets married and has a baby. Lillah McCarthy, Sally Lapiduss, Pamela EellsPamela Eells, execexec producers (TriStar TV).

"Couples"-- One-camera comedy about three couples in a Manhattan apartment building from the creators of "Dream On." Helen Slater, Jonathan SilvermanJonathan Silverman, Robert Clohessy are part of the cast. Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, David Crane, exec producers (Lorimar TV).

Ellen DeGeneresEllen DeGeneres project -- Comedienne Ellen DeGeneres heads an ensemble show about friends living in Los Angeles, likened to a female "Seinfeld." Neal Marlens and Carol Black ("The Wonder Years"), exec producers (Disney TV).

"George"-- Boxer George Foreman as a junior high guidance counselor. Tony Danza, Steve Sauer, Norma Vela, exec producers (Columbia Pictures TV).

"Grace Under Fire"-- Brett ButlerBrett Butler plays a single mother taking various jobs to support three small children. Marcy CarseyMarcy Carsey, Tom WernerTom Werner, Chuck LorreChuck Lorre, exec producers (Carsey-Werner Co.).

Janis Hirsch project -- Former "Anything but Love" producer Hirsch's comedy about a wheelchair-bound wife and mother who returns to work as a principal at the local high school. Janis Hirsch, exec producer (Twentieth TV).

"Little Niagara"-- Vehicle for stand-up comic Richard Jeni as a New York detective who becomes the sheriff of a small town. Vic Kaplan, Russ Woody, exec producers (HBO Independent Prods.).

"The Long Game"-- Joanna Kerns returns to ABC heading an ensemble comedy as a pro golfer forced to become a country club pro. Kerns, Peter TolanPeter Tolan, exec producers (ABC Prods.).

Bob Myers project -- Peter Onorati ("Civil Wars") stars as an unemployed electrician working nights at his brother's bar and spending days at home with the kids while his wife works. Bob MyerBob Myer ("Roseanne"), exec producer (ABC Prods.).

"Phenom"-- Judith Light ("Who's the Boss?") is back as the mother of three kids, one of whom (Angela Goethals) happens to be a teenage tennis phenom. James L. Brooks, Dick Blasucci, Danny Kallis, exec producers (Gracie FilmsGracie Films/Columbia Pictures TV).

"Related by Birth"-- Retooled version of Gracie's "Sibs" starring returnees Margaret Colin, Jamie Gertz and Dan Castellaneta along with Mark Nassar and Grayson McCough. James L. Brooks, Heide Perlman, exec producers (Gracie/Columbia).

Ben Savage project -- The little brother of Fred Savage ("The Wonder Years") plays an 11-year-old "everyboy" described as a cross between Macaulay CulkinMacaulay Culkin and Beaver Cleaver. Michael JacobsMichael Jacobs ("Dinosaurs"), exec producer, April Kelly, co-e.p. (Disney TV).

"Sister, Sister"-- Twin teenage girls (Tia and Tamara Mowry) are reunited at age 13, forming an extended family with one's single mother and the other's widowed father. Suzanne DePasse, Gary GilbertGary Gilbert, exec producers (Paramount Network TV).

"Thea"-- Stand-up comic Thea Vidale plays a widow with four children holding down two jobs to make ends meet. Andrew Susskind, Bernie Kukoff, exec producers (Castle Rock).


"Birdland"-- Brian Dennehy makes his drama series debut as a chief of psychiatry and a major metropolitan hospital. Walter Parkes ("Awakenings"), Scott FrankScott Frank, exec producers (Columbia Pictures TV).

"Bodyguards"-- Light action show featuring rap duo Kid 'N Play working as bodyguards for a personal security agency. Jim Parriott, exec producer (TriStar TV).

"Divas"-- A beautiful, En Vogue-style singing quartet struggling to make it as performers and balance their personal lives. Thomas Carter ("Equal Justice"), exec producer, Shelly List, Jonathan Estrin, co-exec producers (Lorimar TV).

"Doors"-- Sci-fi pilot held over from last season dealing with a doctor (George Newbern) and alien warrior (Anne Le Guernec) traveling through "doors" into different alien worlds each week as she flees pursuers from her home planet. Jim Crocker, George R.R. Martin, exec producers (Columbia).

"Do the Strand"-- Bill Campbell plays the owner of a Florida security business who becomes entangled with an impetuous young woman (Ally Walker). Harley PeytonHarley Peyton ("Twin Peaks"), exec producer (Columbia).

"Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman"-- Dean CainDean Cain and Teri Hatcher play the title roles in this series tracing the more personal aspect of the hopeless Clark-Lois-Superman triangle. With John Shea as Lex Luthor. Bob Butler, David Jacobs, exec producers, Deborah Joy Levine, co-exec producer (Lorimar).

"Missing Persons"-- Daniel J. Travanti ("Hill Street Blues") returns to series as the head of Chicago's missing persons unit in a series blending drama with elements of reality shows. Gary Sherman, exec producer (Stephen J. Cannell Prods.).

"My So-Called Life"-- Ensemble coming-of-age drama from the POV of a teenager (Clare Danes) via the creators of "thirtysomething." Ed Zwick, Marshall HerskovitzMarshall Herskovitz, exec producers, Winnie Holzman, co-exec producer (ABC Prods.).

"NYPD Blue""NYPD Blue"-- Steven Bochco and David MilchDavid Milch reunite in this single-lead cop show being written as TV's first PG-13 series, with "Hill Street" alum Dennis Franz and James McDaniel in supporting roles. The show has a 13-episode commitment. Bochco, Milch, exec producers (Steven Bochco Prods., distributed through Twentieth).

"On the Street"-- Jim Pirri plays a tough but compassionate foot-patrol officer. Stephen Kronish ("The Commish"), exec producer (ABC Prods.).

"Philly Heat"-- Blue-collar character drama, held over from last year's development season, about a group of firefighters that will use actual fire footage. Cast includes Adam Trese, Peter BoylePeter Boyle, Tate Donovan and Ving RhamesVing Rhames. Tom FontanaTom Fontana ("St. Elsewhere"), exec producer (Reeves Entertainment).

"Profiles"-- A hybrid talk show/drama, the show takes a talk format and dramatizes it, moving inside the fictional guests' minds through flashbacks and exploringaction beyond the cameras. Interviews will be improvisational (with a studio audience) and the film segments scripted. David Jacobs, Bob Butler, exec producers (Lorimar TV).


"American Bandstand -- One More Time"-- Half-hour musical variety show inspired by strong ratings for the web's recent "Bandstand" anniversary celebration. Hosted and exec produced by Dick Clark (Dick Clark Prods.).

"Big Time Saturday"-- Variety show inspired by the Spanish-language series "Sabado Gigante" from Vin DiBona ("America's Funniest Home Videos") targeted to Saturday night. DiBona, exec producer, Bill Paolantonio, Earl Durham, co-exec producers (Vin DiBona Prods.).

"It's a Big Country"-- Two-hour variety show "collage" also aimed for Saturday night. Mitchell Kriegman, exec producer (HBO Independent Prods.).

"Kids Are Funny"-- Half-hour comedy/reality show focusing on kids and their families from former ABC exec Launa Newman-Minson. Newman-Minson, exec producer, Josh Goldstein, Jonathan PrinceJonathan Prince, supervising producers (Greengrass Prods./Newman-Minson Prods.)

"Mondo Cane"-- Half-hour reality adventure show from documentary producer Dennis Kane. Kane, David Tabacoff, exec producers (ABC/Kane Prods.).

[...] The Steven Bochco Prods. drama "NYPD Blue" is considered a top contender for either Tuesday or Wednesday at 10 p.m., with two hour shows frequently mentioned for the other slot --"My So-Called Life," an ABC Prods. series from the "thirtysomething" team of Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick; or "Do the Strand," a light Columbia Pictures TV action comedy.


“School is a battlefield for your heart.”

Angela Chase, Episode 1: "My So-Called Life (Pilot)"