Eyeing the big event

CBS' new sked aims at younger, male aud

NEW YORK — Julie Andrews will star in a live broadcast of the Broadway play “On Golden Pond” on CBS during the 2000-01 season, Eye prexy and CEO Leslie Moonves announced Thursday at a pre-upfront presentation for advertisers at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Craig Anderson, who produced and directed the Ernest Thompson play on Broadway, will exec produce. Thompson, who adapted the screenplay of the 1981 film of the same name, will direct.

While most of what Moonves presented to ad buyers had been previously announced, he did unveil the news that Craig T. Nelson — last seen in primetime on “Coach”– will star in “The District,” a Studios USA project in development for CBS. Nelson will play the new police commissioner of Washington, D.C., who clamps down on crime in the capital city.

‘New York’ laffer

Moonves also said that CBS was developing “Mr. New York,” a new sitcom starring comedian Jim Gaffigan from CBS Prods. in association with Studios USA and David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants. Gaffigan, an occasional guest on Letterman’s show, will play an Indiana weatherman who gets a big break in New York.

Overall, the fall development slate is heavily geared toward men, with shows focusing on Mafia life, detective work and inner-city crime. On the femme front is “The New Ellen Show,” from Ellen DeGeneres; “Further Adventures,” featuring Mary Stuart Masterson as a working-class single mother; and “Cold Shoulder,” from writer Lynda LaPlante (“Prime Suspect”).

Moonves emphasized the net’s attempt to focus on event programming, with live productions such as the upcoming “Fail Safe” and “On Golden Pond,” the eight-night run of “Falcone” and the introduction of reality-adventure shows “Big Brother” and “Survivor” this summer.

Narrowing gap

During the presentation, Moonves boasted that the age gap among the three big nets is closing. “Both NBC’s and ABC’s median ages in February were up three years, while CBS was down one year,” Moonves said.

Ad buyers reacted favorably to the Eye’s attempt to woo younger viewers with reality skeins normally found on cable. Chris Geraci, group director, national TV buying at BBDO — whose clients Visa and Frito Lay are two of the nine exclusive sponsors of “Survivor” — applauded CBS for introducing new programming in the summer. “Our clients are always hungry for something original in the third quarter of the year,” Geraci said.

Attractive demo

Advertisers are betting that high- concept shows such as “Survivor” and “Big Brother” will help CBS reach a decidedly younger audience. “CBS wouldn’t normally be doing much business with a younger brand like Doritos,” Geraci said. “But it’s our projection that ‘Survivor’ is going to be an appropriate vehicle for that demo.”

While discussing CBS’ performance this season, Moonves boasted about the Eye net’s dominance on Monday night with the comedy duo “King of Queens” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Adding that Tuesday and Friday were also strong with “JAG,” “Judging Amy” and “Now and Again,” Moonves joked that he takes Thursday nights — still dominated by NBC’s “Must See TV” lineup — off for bowling.

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