Webs halfway home

It’s halfway into the traditional 30-week television season. Do you know where your series are?

Despite efforts to maintain greater continuity–and thus prevent viewers, unsure where to find shows, from seeking out alternatives–the prime time schedule has undergone extensive changes through the first half of the 1992-93 season, with exactly one-third of the 93 regular series that started the fall campaign either canceled, relocated or destined to move by early February.

One show, in fact, NBC’s in-house comedy “Out All Night,” has already been moved twice– once from its original Saturday time period to Thursday, and now to Fridays beginning Feb. 12.

Meanwhile, Lorimar TV, by far the largest single supplier of prime time series when the fall started, retains that title at the midway point despite several recent setbacks with its one-hour dramas.

Through the wonder of terminology, only 10 network and Fox Broadcasting Co. shows have officially been “canceled” this season, though a number of others are on extended hiatus that amounts to a death sentence, with unused episodes to be burned off at a later date.

Still, for all the talk about a lack of break-out hits among new series, nearly half the 33 new series to premiere have been extended to full 22-episode orders, while others have had initial 13-episode buys extended to 17 or 18 episodes.

In most instances, such as NBC’s modestly rated Sunday duo of “Secret Service” and “I Witness Video,” those pick-ups reflect modest expectations that have allowed series to survive despite relatively poor numbers.

Until last Saturday, when CBS aired its first episode of in-house hour “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” no new series had exhibited any ability to thrive outside the safety of a protected time period. The two greatest havens in that regard remain CBS’ Monday and ABC’s Tuesday lineups, with those two nights accounting for six of the top 10 series and 10 of the top 20 in terms of household ratings season to date.

Suppliers, meanwhile, have to concern themselves not only with their shows but the dwindling availability of time periods, since both ABC and CBS plan new one-hour news magazines and ABC and NBC have each bumped failed series with movie repeats (the “Columbo” and “Perry Mason” franchises, respectively)–effectively removing another four to six hours of programming from the 66-hour-a-week three-web mix.

As for gauging the success of individual production companies –a two-pronged formula that involves not only getting shows on the air but keeping them there– Lorimar has recently seen a number of its shows shelved by network fiat, including the dramas “I’ll Fly Away” (effective Feb. 5), “Homefront” and “Going to Extremes” at the end of January.

Lorimar, which started the season with 11 series totaling nine hours of programming, has suffered one other fatality, the drama “Crossroads,” but has added three new series–“The Jackie Thomas Show,””Shaky Ground” and “American Detective”–with another, the reality hour “How’d They Do That?,” expected to get an airdate fairly soon.

The top runner-up on the supplier list, Disney, has witnessed the cancellation of two of its three new series–“Woops!” and “Laurie Hill”–but still has seven shows on the air, with another, “Almost Home,” to arrive in February and a time period pending on ABC midseason comedy “Where I Live.” Disney executives are also still airborne over their ratings and three-year renewal on “Home Improvement.”

Universal, which started the season with seven shows, has mostly good news to report. Its lone new series, “Delta,” is currently on hiatus but has been picked up for the full season and awaits a spring return, possibly on Tuesday if “Jackie Thomas” slides much further– having exhibited its worst post-“Roseanne” fall-off yet (30%) on Tuesday of the current week. For midseason, the studio has the NBC hour “Crime & Punishment” and the ABC sitcom “Home Free.”

Paramount started with seven shows (an eighth, “Glory Boys,” was delayed until midseason and then scrubbed after shooting five episodes) and has a full-season order for the new sitcom “Bob.” On the minus side, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” and “Brooklyn Bridge” are on hiatus and “Wings” will lose some lift when it lands in front of “Cheers,” currently in its last season.

The studio remains extremely active, however, with the shows its network division produces for first-run syndication, including “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “The Untouchables.” It’s other show is “Flying Blind,” a partnership with Viacom, which will soon up its total to three series with Fox’s “Key West” and the return of “Matlock.”

One supplier who came into the season boasting momentum but was clearly hard hit this fall was Spelling TV. Three of four new hours (“The Heights,””The Round Table” and “2000 Malibu Road”) were canceled, with “Beverly Hills, 90210” and spin-off “Melrose Place” surviving.

Warner Bros., Lorimar’s sister company, is still soaring with “Murphy Brown” but has watched new drama “Angel Street” canceled, sophomore sitcom “Room for Two” check into hiatus-land, and probably will see “Life Goes On” set aside soon to make room for ABC’s latest news hour.

The network in-house divisions, with a quartet of shows each at the season’s start, can’t point to any spectacular successes. ABC will up its tally to five with “Jack’s Place” and the belated arrival of Fox’s “Class of ’96,” while NBC drops to three with the imminent end of the new comedy “Here and Now.”

Twentieth TV still boasts five series, though “Picket Fences”– with a full-season pick-up– hasn’t quite reached CBS’ expectations, “L.A. Law” is in trouble and frosh comedy “Rhythm & Blues” will return from an early hiatus in February.

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