Producer David Jacobs (“Dallas,””Knots Landing”) is not feeling very happy. He has two series he’s proud of: “Bodies of Evidence” and “Homefront,” and neither one of them is on the air.
“Bodies of Evidence” is a gritty crime drama with Lee Horsley (“Paradise”) heading a team of homicide detectives, played by George Clooney, Kate McNeil and Al Fann.
Ask Jacobs when the series will return, and he says, “I don’t know. We’ve got eight more shows. They’re very good. It’s very frustrating. The show is now three years old, and I wonder how many times it has to prove itself. I’m just waiting for CBS to give me a time slot.”
ABC’s “Homefront,” which faced NBC’s long-running “Cheers,” Thursday at 9 p.m., has been taken off the air, although it remains in production.
Jacobs hopes his show will have the same good fortune as “Quantum Leap,” which had low ratings initially, was taken off and then did well upon its return. “I actually am not as depressed as some about ‘Homefront,’ ” Jacobs says. “The only possibility of saving it was to get it out of that time slot.”
Meanwhile, Jacob’s long-running hit, “Knots Landing,” is winding up after 14 seasons on CBS. It’s the last of the great prime-time soap operas, that were launched on the coattails of “Dallas.” Jacobs actually created “Knots” before the J.R. Ewing saga, but it came on the air later, positioned as a “Dallas” spinoff.
Jacobs believes that “Dallas” was a product of its time. “‘Dallas’ got lucky. It was the perfect show for the first Reagan administration, because it was about the acquisition of money and power,” he says.
“‘Dynasty’ became the perfect show for the second Reagan administration, because it was about the things that money and power can get you.”
He agrees that audiences eventually tired of those shows and evenbecame contemptuous of them, and so they faded. “Knots Landing,” he feels, was not really related to its time. “Nothing killed ‘Knots Landing’ except economics. Nothing,’ Jacobs says. “It could go on for another 10 years. If there’s been any audience fade, it’s be-cause we’ve had to cut back on the characters. We’ve been forced to amputate our limbs on that show. I’m convinced it could go on forever.”
Such shows with wide audience appeal seem to be disappearing as the networks target their shows to specific demographics, but Jacobs still believes shows can have mass appeal.
“The only difference is that at CBS, when they buy a show, they know they have an older, more suburban, ex-urban and rural audience than the other two,” he says. “That doesn’t mean they won’t buy a real urban show, because in a way they want to get out of that rut.”
ABC usually delivers a young audience. “Part of the problem with ‘Homefront,’ ” says Jacobs, “is that when we produced the pilot, everybody said, ‘How in the world are you going to get young people to watch that show?’ The problem is, we haven’t been able to get anybody else but young people to watch the show.
“If it had been on CBS, we would have gotten some people who remember that era, who lived through it. Whether we would have still gotten the young people, I don’t know,” he says.
The veteran producer believes that the serial, the ongoing drama, is television’s logical form.”We can’t compete in production values with feature films, which are available right over there on the cable channels,” he says. “We can’t be as sexy as they can be. We can’t blow up as many things.”
But the hour-long TV show can do something that no other form can. “It can show you what happens after the curtain goes down,” he says. “But the serials are in more trouble than the other hour dramas, because they don’t rerun well in the summer. We’re in a Catch-22 situation.”
Jacobs has watched with interest the renewed development of hour dramas going direct to syndication, such as “Baywatch,””Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “The Untouchables.”
“I don’t know how they can do it,” he says. “But I hope they can. If they can do it, I’ll be doing it in another year.”
But having said that, Jacobs admits he is a creature of network television. “That doesn’t mean I won’t adjust–if I have to, but I like the system,” he says. “At least in a financial way. The network pays you your money, and they give you a lot of aggravation, but you learn to enjoy it. They air your show and then it’s yours–or rather, the studio’s–but I get a piece of the profits. “That works for me.”