Suppliers may have gotten a preview of the world after fin-syn on Sunday, as ABC slotted a show starring Paula Poundstone that wasn’t on its development slate and didn’t have a pilot but comes from network in-house division ABC Prods.
According to sources, ABC — huddling in a marathon session to set their fall schedule — had a lineup set early in the day but, after meeting with senior management, junked it and went back to the drawing board. Network officials were said to have quit for the day last night with a number of holes still on the schedule.
Studio executives said the switch was brought about in part by a mandate from senior officials, in the wake of recent regulatory changes relaxing the financial interest and syndication rules, to get more shows the network owns on the roster.
Another delay was apparently brought about by ABC’s reported decision to cancel Steven Bochco Prods.’ “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” which, in the ruckus that followed, briefly threatened to keep his new drama “NYPD Blue” off the fall lineup. However, the show is now projected for the 10 p.m. Tuesday slot.
In another surprise, ABC’s recently introduced third newsmagazine, “Day One,” which has been struggling at 8 p.m. Sundays, is expected to move, but no one’s sure where — most likely to 8 o’clock Monday, though 10 p.m. Tuesday and the lead-off hour Saturday were also mentioned.
The Poundstone show is said to be scheduled for 9 p.m. Saturdays, prior to another ABCP series, “The Commish,” which will stay at 10 o’clock. ABC had contemplated going with low-cost reality series on the night but apparently nixed the idea after viewing a presentation for a two-hour variety show from HBO Independent Prods.
Other comedies now expected to make the fall lineup are “Thea,” a Castle Rock sitcom that will likely lead off Wednesday night, followed by either “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” or the new ABCP series “Joe’s Life,” starring Peter Onorati and produced by Bob Myer. “Joe’s Life” was another possible late addition in the effort to get more in-house shows on the air.
“Eleven,” a Disney series starring Ben Savage (brother of “The Wonder Years’ ” Fred), will probably join the “TGIF” lineup Fridays at 8:30 between “Family Matters” and “Step by Step,” which will move to 9 p.m. and be followed by either “Mr. Cooper” or “Getting By,” both rookie Lorimar series.
“Phenom,” a James L. Brooks-produced comedy starring Judith Light, is expected to air at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the hammocked slot between “Full House” and “Roseanne,” with the latter followed either by “Coach” or the new Carsey-Werner Co. comedy “Grace Under Fire.” Whichever show doesn’t go after “Roseanne” will get an equally plum slot after “Home Improvement” in the same time period Wednesday.
Dramas seen as making the schedule are Columbia’s “Do the Strand,” a light action comedy starring Bill Campbell and Ally Walker, now slotted for 10 p.m. Wednesday; and “Missing Persons,” a Stephen J. Cannell Prods. series that could lead off Thursday, with “Matlock” moving to 9 p.m. prior to “PrimeTime Live.”
If “Day One” doesn’t go to Monday, that night will remain unchanged, with reality series “FBI: The Untold Stories” and “American Detective” leading into “Monday Night Football.”
“Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” is expected to replace “Day One” Sundays at 8 p.m., with the Vin Di Bona hour of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “America’s Funniest People” starting off the night.
The Saturday lead-off hour remains open, and if “Day One” doesn’t go there ABC could seek to attract the African-American market NBC tried to reach last year with two black-lead comedies — perhaps “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” (assuming it doesn’t go anywhere else) and Disney’s “Where I Live.”
One high-profile scheduling matter was set long before Sunday: Tom Arnold announced Friday that he had decided to “quit” his Lorimar-produced sitcom “The Jackie Thomas Show,” saying he was talking with producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason about starring in a comedy for CBS.
Sources say Arnold’s announcement was a face-saving move after ABC informed him that the show — despite the public campaign waged by Roseanne Arnold — wouldn’t be renewed. Despite Roseanne’s statement that she would head elsewhere if “Jackie” isn’t picked up, the Arnolds and the network reportedly are still discussing a multiple-series deal.
Scheduling “Grace Under Fire” after “Roseanne” would give Carsey-Werner its first shot at the coveted post-“Roseanne” time slot since “Chicken Soup,” the short-lived sitcom starring Jackie Mason, back in September 1989.
In a sense, if ABC feels compelled to reward somebody with a time period, it’s not a bad idea to give the edge to Carsey-Werner, since they, not the Arnolds, own “Roseanne” and will be the entity with which ABC has to sit down at the negotiating table next year. In addition, some non-biased observers view the comedy of “Grace” star Brett Butler — playing the single mother of three — as compatible with “Roseanne.”
Two more years of ‘Roseanne’
The Arnolds have already signed with Carsey-Werner on “Roseanne” for an additional two seasons, and ABC retains a first-negotiation, first-refusal position. C-W would have an option to take the show elsewhere if ABC won’t meet its terms.
Among the borderline series not expected to return next season are the Lorimar serial “Homefront,” a favorite of Viewers for Quality Television; and “Delta,” the Delta Burke sitcom from Universal. Other long-anticipated casualties include “Civil Wars,””The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” (expected to be burned off with multiple airings this summer) and “Room for Two.”
ABC’s last-minute scheduling shifts left studio brass and agents twiddling their thumbs Sunday after they had been led to believe the network would have a lineup in place by 2 p.m. Eastern time. ABC will unveil its lineup to advertisers on Tuesday, and it’s customary to provide studios enough time to make their talent available for the presentation.
Instead, word of the incomplete schedule didn’t hit the gossip circuit until after 8 p.m. ET, around the time the Lakers and Phoenix Suns were finishing overtime of their NBC playoff game — the only convenient diversion left hotel-bound executives in New York.