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Ted Harbert ABC Online Chat

ABC Online
January 19, 1995

Auditorium with Ted Harbert

ABCPrimeSC: Good Evening Everyone! Thanks for joining us tonight... I will be your host for our auditorium with TED HARBERT. Welcome Ted!

TED H LIVE: Hi everybody--I'm glad to be here.

ABCPrimeSC: Glad you could join us. We have many questions for you tonight, so let's just begin...

ABCPrimeSC: Our first question comes from Jeffers14...
Question: Ted, Jeff from USA TODAY here. Where are you, how are you doing this, are you typing your on responses and what kind of share are you expecting for My So-Called Life tonight?

TED H LIVE: I'm in the video conference room here at ABC (we're very '90's here) I'm typing on a NEC laptop and I expect an 11 or 12 -- but I'd love it to be higher

ABCPrimeSC: The next question is on the minds of many people here tonight... Kevcox asks...
Question: Mr. Harbert, regarding the embattled "My So-Called Life," could you explain the difficulties in moving the show to a better time slot, perhaps exchanging it with a more successful show that will do well whenever it airs (such as "Home Improvement")?

TED H LIVE: Many believe, and they may be right, that MSCL would benefit from a later evening time slot. Unfortunately, it would be unwise for me to take NYPD BLUE off of Tuesdays and right now the news department controls Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night. I can't move Home Improvement again - - I really need to keep this job. : )

ABCPrimeSC: Here's another "MSCL" question from SimDiane..
Question: Why is "My So-Called Life" being canceled (it's the best show on ABC)?

TED H LIVE: MSCL has not been canceled!!!!!!! It completes its 19 episode run for the season on Jan. 26. I will make a decision about its future sometime between February and May. I love this show but I wish more viewers felt the same way I do. It deserves higher ratings so I need you fans to try to convince everyone you know to watch it.

ABCPrimeSC: A "L&C" question from Darknight...
Question: What are ABC's plans with "Lois and Clark:The New Adventures of Superman"? Will it be back for a third season? It's one of my favorites and I think it's one of the best shows ever created for its genre.

TED H LIVE: Lois & Clark is a better show this season and I think it has a very good chance to be renewed. That decision will be made in May as well.

ABCPrimeSC: Now, a question about TV's Comedy Queen...
Question: What's going to happen with Roseanne, now that she's stuck in bed?

TED H LIVE: Roseanne is under close medical supervision due to her pregnancy, but because she cares so much about her show, she came to the studio this week to shoot her scenes for this week's episode. I hope she'll be feeling better next week.

ABCPrimeSC: A question from ChrisLear...
Question: Your opinion on the new networks? Their quality and effect on ABC

TED H LIVE: It's extremely difficult to start a new network. As I'm sure you all know the 3 networks and FOX have enough trouble coming up with good shows for our schedules. Only time will tell if the creative community can deliver enough good programs to sustain the WB and UPN networks.

ABCPrimeSC: Another "MSCL" question...
Question: What do you think about the efforts to save the show? Lauriss

TED H LIVE: Since the ratings are pretty low, the effort to save the show makes me feel terrific about our decision to schedule it. I can't tell you that a grass-roots campaign will definitely get the show renewed, but we take direct communication from our viewers into consideration when making our decisions.

ABCPrimeSC: A question about the demands of running a network....
Question: How difficult is it to balance the demands of your job, which often means making tough decisions on whether shows live or die, with your personal feelings toward the shows? I know youand your family adore "My So-Called Life."

TED H LIVE: The many decisions I have to make do keep me up at night -- especially because so many people's jobs are at stake. Nevertheless, I can't imagine a job that's more fun than mine. They pay me to watch TV!

ABCPrimeSC: Best job ever!! A question from MarkWCXLA
Question: Ted..I know you used to be friends or schoolmates with Howard Stern. Do you see a career in late night television for him and when?

TED H LIVE: Howard Stern and I were good friends in college. I haven't seen him since 1978. I think he's very funny. I won't say anything more because he'll rip me apart on the radio again.

ABCPrimeSC: A question from Molen303
Question: Why do we see so many re-runs of NYPD Blue?

TED H LIVE: Producing NYPD Blue is like producing a big theatrical movie every week. To keep the quality up, I have to give Steven Bochco the proper amount of time to write, shoot, and edit each episode. That means repeats. Please be patient -- we'll have four originals in a row in February.

ABCPrimeSC: A question from William21...
Question: Is there anything that the viewers or a fan/support organization can do, aside from recruiting more viewers, to ASSURE that a show such as My So Called Life will stay on the air?

TED H LIVE: I'd be lying if I said that anything could assure a pick-up. Higher ratings would definitely help, but there are many complex factors that go into the decision about a show's future. Just don't give up hope.

ABCPrimeSC: A question about pre-preemptions..
Question: Who makes the decisions to preempt a show? Lois & Clark seems to be preempted every other week. Can't ABC show reruns if no new shows are available to show? Dayna

TED H LIVE: Like NYPD Blue, Lois & Clark has an extremely difficult production schedule mostly because of its complicated special effects. When a new show isn't ready, sometimes we put on a repeat, sometimes we put on a special. I personally hate to see too many repeats before summertime, so that's why you see specials.

ABCPrimeSC: Another question about "MSCL's future from SinSin434.
Question: I read that MSCL is Chelsea Clinton and Steven Spielberg's favorite show. Will that help keep it on the air next year?

TED H LIVE: Do you think Chelsea has a Nielsen box? I'm pretty sure Mr. Spielberg doesn't. :D

ABCPrimeSC: A question from CarleeL...
Question: What ever happened to Coach? I use to watch it all of the time, but now I can't seem to find it or it is in such a bad time slot that I haven't noticed it.

TED H LIVE: Coach is on Mondays at 8:00 pm, 7:00 pm central. I changed the time period to keep Ellen at 9:30 pm. Please tell all the Coach fans about its new time period and that it's still a great show

ABCPrimeSC: A question from Eschil...
Question: Does it bother you that ER has been sweeping the ratings? How do you intend to counter?

TED H LIVE: Truthfully, it never really bothers me when another network's show does well because it keeps our business strong. All it does is make me work harder right now, our news department is fighting the tough fight with Day One. They're doing great stories -- you ought to give it a look.

ABCPrimeSC: A question from Pastor666
Question: How many more seasons will "Home Improvement" be on?

TED H LIVE: I hope until I'm old and gray. I can't imagine trying to replace it!

ABCPrimeSC: A question from CBSMikey...
Question: "All-American Girl" has gotten a lot better now. Being Asian American I'm glad to see it on the air. is it doing well enough in the ratings for a second season?

TED H LIVE: "AAG" *is* getting better. Everyone's been working really hard on it and I think it does have a real shot at next season.

ABCPrimeSC: A question about ratings and demographics...
Question: What does ABC consider the "demographics" of My So Called Life to be? How did ABC determine the show's demographics? If the answer is ratings, does ABC use any other factors, information or sources?

TED H LIVE: Adults 18-49 is the most important demographic to our advertisers. Its rating with that age group is determined by the Nielsen company. People that have meters in their homes have to punch in when they're watching a show. We can't be 100% sure of the system's accuracy, but right now it's the only system we have.

ABCPrimeSC: A question from BarryJ578
Question: What are some of your favorite network shows?

TED H LIVE: It's not on a network, but I'm really a big fan of soul train.

ABCPrimeSC: Groovy...Soul Train... : ) Next question is from Jen Dawso...
Question: Why do so many on-air promo spots for MY SO CALLED LIFE seem to be geared toward a BLOSSOM audience when the when the show's audience seems to be adults?

TED H LIVE: I've done many different kinds of promos for MSCL, some directed at adults some directed at teens. Frankly, I am frustrated that none of the different types of spots we've tried has increased the audience. maybe I haven't found the right angle yet, but it's not for lack of trying.

.. .. .. .. ..

ABCPrimeSC: Sorry for the delay folks... There are so many questions about "MSCL" that Ted has decided to just make a general statement...

TED H LIVE: Let me try to answer the jillion MSCL questions with this statement. MSCL is not canceled. Its 19 episodes conclude on Jan. 26. I think the ratings are low because it has very tough competition and the show is difficult to watch for a significant segment of the audience. Some people just don't find an honest, realistic and often painful depiction of family life entertaining. Some "grown-ups" don't want to relive some of the hard times of growing up and some teenagers think the show dwells too much on the depressing aspects of life. I believe that the show is simply brilliant. Its insights into why people treat each other the way they do makes fascinating, important, and yes, entertaining television. Nobody knows if this show would grow with time. That's the hard decision I have to make. One of the unfortunate things about my job is that even though there are 10 million MSCL fans out there, the brutally competitive nature of my business requires that I try to put on shows that more people will watch. The support from all of you does keep all of us at ABC optimistic that perhaps this show has a future. Let's hope...

ABCPrimeSC: And, the last question for tonight is from Shefferma....
Question: Have you ever pinched yourself to see if you really have gotten this job?

TED H LIVE: I stopped pinching myself because it was starting to hurt. But each day, I try to remember how lucky I am to have the job I've always wanted.

ABCPrimeSC: Thanks Ted for taking the time to talk to us tonight!!! We hope to have you on-line again sometime soon...

TED H LIVE: Thanks for coming everybody. I hope to have a chance to talk with you again.

ABCPrimeSC: We'd love to have you! Goodnight everyone!

“Do we have to keep talking about religion? It's Christmas.”

Danielle Chase, Episode 15: "So-Called Angels"