SO MUCH TO WRITE ABOUT. So little space.
With that in mind, here are some brief, easily digestible nuggets to chew on as the television industry gets back to business and stops pondering the importance of executing a flawless toe loop into a triple lutz:
THAT’S WHAT ‘FRIENDS’ IS FOR: The future configuration of ABC’s Wednesday lineup represents one of those tangled webs that takes more than a Nielsen guidebook to unravel.
“These Friends of Mine,” a Disney sitcom starring comic Ellen DeGeneres, will get one of TV’s best time periods, airing behind “Home Improvement,” on a trial basis beginning March 30. In addition, “Thunder Alley,” a comedy from the creative team behind “Improvement,” takes over the 8:30 slot (sandwiched between episodes of the Tim Allen series) starting next week.
ABC’s problem has been the 8 p.m. hour Wednesday, and sources say the network considered trying out current “Home Improvement” lead-out “Grace Under Fire,” despite its salty humor, in the night’s leadoff slot; however, that plan was nixed, apparently in part due to strong objections from the Carsey-Werner Co., which produces not only “Grace” but the just-renewed ABC hit “Roseanne.”
In short, the following parties are all extremely interested in ABC’s Wednesday performance over the next two months: Disney, which distributes “Home Improvement” and the DeGeneres show; Wind Dancer Production Group, which produces “Improvement” and “Thunder Alley”; Carsey-Werner; and to a lesser degree James L. Brooks, whose Gracie Films produces “The Critic,” which has been getting a thumbs-down Nielsen vote in the 8:30 slot.
On top of that, every drama producer in town is rooting for ABC’s latest newsmagazine, “Turning Point,” to grind to a halt, lest the web turn over a fourth hour to the news division. “Grace,” TV’s top-rated new series, will almost certainly hang on to its 9:30 mooring next season. The future of the other shows remains a Rubik’s cube that ABC should have one heckuva time twisting into a pattern that will keep everyone — or for that matter, anyone — happy.
I’M GOIN’ TO TACKY-LAND: Thumbs down on the Walt Disney Co. for inaugurating its relationship with Nancy Kerrigan smack dab in the middle of Winter Olympics coverage of the skating finals Friday.
Kerrigan was made to look absolutely tacky by using that platform to cash in on her sudden fame, and the ad copy in the spot –“Nancy Kerrigan, you’ve won the hearts of the world. What are you doing next?”– seemed particularly inane in light of Kerrigan’s finish behind Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul, whose own story of triumph over adversity makes Kerrigan’s rap on the knee seem like a relative picnic.
Compounding the error, Kerrigan played the role not of ice princess but icy prima donna by leaving the Games before the closing ceremony. Her explanation, that she wanted to avoid the media crush, hardly holds up considering that she took refuge in the center of a Disney World parade.
Kerrigan’s handlers would be well advised to tread carefully regarding such images, lest they quickly turn America’s “girl next door” into the little girl who lived down the lane. If Kerrigan starts to look like Tonya Harding, the party’s over.
WHERE CREDIT’S DUE: Kudos to KNBC-TV — yes, that KNBC-TV — for airing a segment they’re promoting about tabloid TV, exploring the prices such shows pay for interviews and whether subjects can be trusted on that basis.
With so many viewers getting their news almost exclusively from television, the industry has generally been too slow when it comes to engaging in such self-examination.
One reason for that may be the inherent irony of such pieces. KNBC, for example, not only airs “Hard Copy” but occasionally snags material from the syndicated show for use in its local newscasts. To question such shows thus requires some courage, because telling viewers to be skeptical of what they see on TV could have implications as to how one’s own news product is judged.
Nevertheless, such analysis belongs on television — and not just via “Frontline” documentaries and PBS specials. If the industry needs a beacon, it should follow the brilliant work of ABC News’ Jeff Greenfield, who consistently turns the spotlight back on the media in a manner that’s neither condescending nor self-flagellating.
For KNBC, which has received more than its share of criticism, the effort alone merits a reward. A criticism-free certificate on the station’s next 10-minute package of Michael Jackson coverage is in the mail.
THE LAST WORD: Although this column has no desire to perpetuate any ongoing feuds, we feel compelled to clarify an item last week that prompted an on-air response from “The KTLA Morning News’ ” Sam Rubin.
In writing about Roseanne Arnold, it wasn’t our intent to lump the KTLA show in with tabloid-style news. What we meant to say was that based on the manner in which it presents the news, the program’s on-air talent should wear big, floppy red shoes and bright red noses.
We hope that clears things up.