Bad timing for Wolf

Producer, NBC in timeslot flap over 'Law' spinoff

PASADENA — Dick Wolf is howling over NBC’s skedding of his upcoming “Law & Order” spinoff — an often-disturbing skein about sex crimes which the producer believes is too intense for its planned 9 p.m. timeslot.

Though the Peacock announced the 9 p.m. Monday slot for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” back in May, Wolf waited until a Friday gathering of TV journos to publicly express his displeasure regarding the early time period. He said he’s been actively pushing the web to give the spinoff a 10 p.m. timeslot, so far without success.

“The network knows how I feel about this. This show is not designed to be a 9 o’clock show,” said Wolf, adding that he has “used every argument at my disposal” to lobby NBC brass to air “Special Victims Unit” at 10 p.m.

“I have shot my wad on this, folks. I couldn’t get it moved,” the producer said.

Wolf wants NBC to shift the Monday edition of “Dateline” to 9 p.m., allowing his spinoff to air at 10 p.m.

But Peacock execs, particularly those in the news division, are reluctant to mess with “Dateline.” Performing solidly at 10 p.m. last season, newsmag was the net’s one ratings winner on an otherwise dismal evening. Affils also tend to prefer newsmags at 10 p.m., believing they provide solid lead-ins for local news.

In addition, some NBC programmers argue that shifting “Dateline” to 9 p.m. would give CBS the opportunity to add another edition of “48 Hours” on Mondays at 10 p.m. should frosh drama “Family Law” follow the pattern of recent Eye dramas and bombs in the slot.

Wolf isn’t buying the don’t-touch- “Dateline” arguments.

“I don’t think it makes a damn bit of difference where ‘Dateline’ is,” he said. “It’s on five times a week.”

NBC West Coast topper Scott Sassa said he understands Wolf’s concerns but so far has no plans to make a timeslot change.

“‘Dateline’ is a very important show for us,” he told Daily Variety, adding that he’s glad to see “Dick is so passionate about his show.”

Besides lobbying for a new timeslot by arguing his show’s content is inappropriate at that hour, Wolf also admitted he’s not thrilled about the competish at 9 p.m., quipping, “(Fox’s) ‘Ally McBeal,’ the highest-rated comedy on CBS (‘Everybody Loves Raymond’), and ‘Monday Night Football’ (on ABC) — I think it’s a great slot.”

This isn’t the first time a producer has quarreled with NBC over the net’s reluctance to switch “Dateline” out of an established timeslot.

Last year, “ER” producer John Wells waged a behind-the-scenes battle to get NBC to move his new drama “Trinity” out of the 8 p.m. Friday slot. Wells wanted to be in the 9 p.m. slot occupied by “Dateline.”

Peacock execs ultimately agreed, and moved “Dateline” to 8 p.m. and “Trinity” to 9 p.m. Unfortunately, “Trinity” bombed, and NBC eventually returned its golden newsmag to the later hour, launching the surprise hit “Providence” at 8 p.m.

Wolf says he’s still hoping that NBC will eventually change his show’s timeslot.

“I can’t imaging them not changing it,” he said.

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