CBS slates ‘Angels’ at 8

New Bochco drama could score with counterprogramming

CBS has found a home for its much-anticipated Steven Bochco midseason drama “City of Angels,” skedding the skein in a surprising slot: Wednesdays at 8 p.m.

Announcement Monday ends weeks of speculation about where the Eye would put the high-profile hospital hour. Because of Bochco’s rep for gritty, envelope-pushing fare, most web watchers had assumed the skein would, for content reasons alone, have to land in a 9 or 10 p.m. slot — a rare commodity on CBS these days given the success of frosh dramas such as “Judging Amy” and “Family Law.”

But, according to CBS topper Leslie Moonves, while “City” is “cutting edge in terms of adult themes,” the first two segs he’s seen didn’t raise any content alarm bells. “There’s nothing overly sexual or overly violent about it,” he said of the skein, which Bochco and Paris Barclay are exec producing.

“In addition, with a 200-channel universe, the old concept of family-friendly-only programming at 8 o’clock has to be dealt with in a different way,” Moonves noted.

Bochco, who earlier this fall went to war with ABC when the web seemed ready to bump his “NYPD Blue” from Tuesday nights, expressed satisfaction with the scheduling of his latest skein.

“We are thrilled that Les was able to find us a timeslot on what is already a successful schedule,” he said. “Notwithstanding that ‘City of Angels’ will air at 8 p.m., we have Les’ assurance that we will not have to modify our content.”

It’s not certain what would happen if Bochco asked to include a nude scene in “City” similar to those which have aired on “Blue” and Bochco’s last CBS drama, “Brooklyn South.” CBS execs said only that the net has “respect for Steven as an artist” and would deal with such an issue if it arose in the future.

Eye plans to put some major promotional muscle behind “City of Angels,” giving the show a special sneak preview Sunday, Jan. 16, in the 8 p.m. timeslot occupied by “Touched by an Angel.” CBS plans to use its broadcast of the AFC playoff game earlier in the day as a promo platform to hype the preview. Series will bow in its regular Wednesday slot Jan. 19.

“Cosby,” which now airs Wednesdays at 8, will shift to Fridays at 8:30 p.m. starting Jan. 14. The move creates an hourlong Cosby block on Fridays, with the Bill Cosby-hosted “Kids Say the Darndest Things” remaining at 8 p.m.

“Candid Camera,” currently airing Fridays at 8:30 p.m., is expected to get a new slot within the next few days. There’s already speculation that CBS may pair “Candid” with its new gameshow “Winning Lines,” perhaps using the hourlong block to replace weaker programming on Thursday or Saturday night.

As for “City,” once CBS execs determined there were no content factors working against the Bochco drama, Wednesdays at 8 became an almost natural choice for slotting the show: Competish-wise, there are no other dramas aimed at the Eye’s core 35- to 54-year-old demo airing Wednesdays at 8. That gives “City,” which stars Blair Underwood and Vivica A. Fox, a clear shot to score as counterprogramming, especially since neither ABC’s comedy block nor NBC’s “Dateline” are huge ratings magnets.

In addition, 8 p.m. weeknight dramas have been doing remarkably well lately, with NBC’s “Providence” and CBS’ “JAG” both finding success in earlier slots.

CBS execs briefly toyed with the idea of putting “City” Tuesdays at 9 p.m., but such a move would have displaced “60 Minutes II,” which has been a solid performer this fall. Eye execs also wanted to avoid turning “60 II” into a hole-plugger like NBC’s “Dateline.”

“City” also features Michael Warren and T.E. Russell. Show is set in a Los Angeles County hospital and has already generated much buzz for being one of the few primetime dramas to feature a mostly minority cast.

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