‘Wings’ folds; ‘List’ date set

NBC skeds 'Schindler,' prescribes bed rest for 'ER'

“Wings” will fly off the NBC schedule with a one-hour series finale May 21 that caps seven seasons and 175 episodes in primetime, and Steven Spielberg’s epic Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List” has been slated to air Feb. 23 on NBC sans any conventional commercial breaks.

The announcements were made Saturday by NBC Entertainment prexy Warren Littlefield at the Peacock web’s concluding session of the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, where Littlefield also confirmed that both “ER” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” will be shelved for several weeks in March and April, and that “Dateline NBC” will expand to a fourth night over the summer.

“ER” is being pulled from the Thursday night schedule for five weeks beginning March 6 to make room for the premiere of the new Warner Bros. drama “Prince Street” and a special four-week run of “Law & Order,” which Littlefield noted Saturday has the largest growth in adults 18-49 of any drama on network TV this season for the fourth year in a row.

“Prince Street” moves into “Law & Order’s” regular 10 p.m. Wednesday slot for the remainder of its run on March 12.

“Homicide: Life on the Street” is being yanked from the 10 p.m. Friday timeslot for six weeks beginning Feb. 28 for a midseason run of the new Warner Bros. drama “Crisis Center,” starring Kellie Martin.

Littlefield thanked the producers of “Wings” for creating and maintaining “a show that has served us very well … This was the show that went in and helped turn on the lights on Tuesday nights for NBC.”

Unorthodox ads

While NBC’s 3-1/2-hour broadcast TV premiere of “Schindler’s List” is being sponsored by Ford and includes eight minutes of purchased commercial time, the automotive giant is using just one minute and 50 seconds of that for regular ads: A 60-second spot before the film begins and a 50-second ad following the closing credits.

The remaining 6 minutes-plus will be taken up by a pair of intermission breaks during which a title card and a Ford Motor Co. icon will be flashed; a 30-second intro by Ford VP/G.M. Ross Roberts, a 30-second intro by Spiel-berg himself and, following the movie, a 90-second announcement for Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation.

Spielberg is also overseeing the “extremely minimal” cuts being made in the film prior to NBC’s broadcast, Little-field said.

Littlefield called Ford’s exclusive sponsorship setup “unprecedented,” adding, “In my lifetime, I cannot remember any event or any picture that’s been handled this way, and I think this picture truly deserves that.”

Asked to guesstimate how much money NBC would be losing on “Schindler’s List” by presenting the film with so little commercial time, Littlefield said he didn’t know what the precise dollar amounts were.

“We’re not here to tabulate … That’s not what this is about,” he said. Yet despite the socially responsible de-emphasizing of advertising during the film, it is nonetheless airing during February sweeps.

The “Schindler’s List” broadcast will also be unique in that it will be the first program to be tagged with a TV-M rating (for mature audiences only), the strongest warning to parents of young children under the content-rating system instituted Jan. 1.

Littlefield was taken to task by several of the assembled critics on Saturday for the fact that last Thursday’s particularly racy episode of “Friends” was given a TV-PG rating, rather than the more restrictive TV-14.

‘Give us time’

“You know, we’re new in the system,” Littlefield said. “We’re still, I think, honestly dealing with it, learn-ing, charting our way. Maybe it should have been (TV-14). But, you know, give us time.”

As for reports that “Seinfeld” will return to NBC for a ninth season, Littlefield acknowledged only that cast mem-bers have indicated they would like to come back.

“Nothing could make us happier,” Littlefield said. He refused to comment when pressed about speculation that Seinfeld himself would receive $1 million per episode to return.

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