Loni Anderson has the hots for Richard Mulligan, or at least their respective characters will be making eyes at one another, when NBC’s “Empty Nest” and “Nurses” grace the airwaves this fall.
The Peacock Web is already making plans to use this love connection between the newest cast member of “Nurses” and “Empty Nest’s” Mulligan as a means to create a seamless Saturday night.
Since the romantic storyline on 9 p.m.’s “Empty Nest” will spill into 9:30 p.m.’s “Nurses,” the two Witt Thomas Harris sitcoms will have the capability to lock in viewers and stem audience defection on the lowest night of the week for homes using television.
The first such Saturday will probably occur during the November sweeps. The promotion package for that night may even try to link thematically the 8 p.m. block of Paramount’s “The Mommies” and Lorimar’s “Cafe Americain” to the 9 p.m.- 10 p.m. series.
Ted Frank, NBC’s veep of current series programs, said, “Theme nights have worked out very well in the past when we did a Hurricane Saturday and a Moon Over Miami-themed night. We’re planning one for the November sweeps, but it’s still in the preliminary stages.”
In the past, when Witt Thomas Harris and NBC designed nights in which a story thread linked “Golden Girls,””Empty Nest” and “Nurses,” the web enjoyed a significant ratings uptick.
During one season, NBC broadcast a “Hurricane Saturday” during November sweeps, which nabbed a 29 share for the “Golden Girls” double-shot. “Empty Nest” scooped up a 34 share, and “Nurses” clocked a 31. A “Moon Over Miami” night from that season’s February sweeps drove “Empty Nest” to a 28 share and “Nurses” to a 26.
Since all three series are Witt Thomas Harris product and all three were set in Miami, it was easy for the producers to link the sitcoms by including references to characters from other shows or to a neighborhood occurrence like a hurricane.
While networks often suggest cross-promoting of characters for a ratings uptick, producers have to refrain from overdoing the crossovers as they can damage a series’ value in syndication. Too many cameos by “Blossom” on “Fresh Prince” might confuse viewers watching the series in the future when, during their off-net run, they don’t appear back-to-back.
Anderson is not the only new star joining NBC’s Saturday lineup. Estelle Getty and Marsha Warfield are just some of the previously announced names who will be added to NBC’s Saturday night lineup this fall.
In fact, nearly every regular from “Night Court” will be hitting the fall sked. Harry Anderson is slated to star in CBS’ “Dave’s World,” John Larroquette is headlining his own NBC sitcom, Charlie Robinson is bartending on CBS’ “Love & War” and Markie Post is making whoopee with John Ritter on CBS’ “Hearts Afire.”