Life in the era of `appointment TV’

We live in an era of astounding change.Traditional television is under fire from all sides - cable, the vcr, new forms of video entertainment - and, most of all, from viewers whose greatest luxury is time.Due to the demands and pressures...

We live in an era of astounding change.

Traditional television is under fire from all sides – cable, the vcr, new forms of video entertainment – and, most of all, from viewers whose greatest luxury is time.

Due to the demands and pressures on people’s time, their media viewing habits today can best be described as selective.

We have an expression at the agency to describe how people’s viewing habits are changing from ‘grazing,’ to a new style of using the medium, namely, ‘appointment television.’ People today have ‘must watch’ programs.

Not using the medium

Beyond these ‘appointments,’ people are simply not using the medium the way they used to. They no longer sit down at seven o’clock on a given night and proceed to plan their entire evening hour by half-hour.

This provides a challenge to programmers: give the viewer their show when they plan to watch it – consistency in scheduling is crucially important.

As buyers, our challenge is not only to negotiate the price, but to figure out which ‘appointments’ our target group will make and then pay the best price for those shows.

Ultimately, buying the right show at the right price will be the true measure of the success of a buy.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article, not all pilots have been available for viewing, and the Toronto schedules have not all been released.

However, based on trends, as well as input from our friends south of the border, and what we learned in New York at the u.s. network screenings, here goes:

This fall, viewers will be faced with several changes, particularly with regard to Thurday night viewing.

Favorites gone

Gone are favorites Cheers and Knots Landing, but, funnily enough, in their place will be the exact same type of programming: Seinfeld, the popular sitcom, takes the place of Cheers, and Angel Falls, a primetime soap, takes the place of Knots.

So it seems the networks are counting on viewers’ appointment habits remaining relatively the same this year, with comedies being the No. 1 form of entertainment.

Of the 40 new shows premiering this fall, 22 are in the form of the half-hour sitcom, two are hour-long comedy/variety programs, and even the hour-long dramas contain some humor. It is apparent that in these tough economic times, people need to laugh.

Having said that, the networks have also realized this year that the viewing public also wants to be informed.

News magazines

Therefore, as of this fall, all four networks will have at least one, one-hour newsmagazine program to offer.

Another trend we have noticed is the revival of the western.

Just as country & western music has been so popular this year in major cities across the continent, so it seems television westerns have become the new vogue. Who would have ever imagined the success of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman?

This year, cbs and Fox have come out with western-type programs, no doubt counting on replicating the success of Dr. Quinn.

Here is a look at some of the new shows for the fall ’93 season:



Dave’s World – 8:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (sitcom)

Starring Harry Anderson of Night Court fame, this half-hour comedy is based on the syndicated columns of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Dave Barry.

Hammocked between the hits Evening Shade and Murphy Brown, this show is bound to be a survivor.


Fox Night at the Movies – 8 p.m. – 10 p.m.

In the Fox tradition, the movies run here will be targetted to the younger demographic, with titles such as White Men Can’t Jump, Mr. Baseball and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Prediction: cbs will take the night with its unbeatable lineup of Evening Shade, Murphy Brown and Northern Exposure.



Phenom – 8:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (sitcom)

A teen tennis star lives with her single mother, her brother and her sister. Judith Light (Who’s the Boss?) stars as the mother and William Devane (Knots Landing) stars as the coach. The draw of these big names, coupled with the position between Full House and Roseanne, makes this one a sure hit.

NYPD Blue – 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. (drama)

A 15-year New York Police Department veteran investigates all aspects of crime in the city. With Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues) as the producer and Roseanne as the lead-in, this one’s bound to survive.


Saved By The Bell – 8 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (sitcom)

A spin-off of the successful Saturday morning youngsters’ show. With a strong teen following, this show will give Full House a run for its money.

The John Larroquette Show – 9 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (sitcom)

Stars John Larroquette (Night Court) as a man who has hit bottom and gets a job as co-ordinator of a bus depot for the all-night shift. Up against Roseanne, even ‘Dan Fielding’ cannot survive.


Buddy Blues – 8:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (sitcom)

From producer Larry Levine, this is the story of a white cop-black cop, slightly mismatched partnership, a la Leathal Weapon.

If this one survives, it will only be due to its position on the schedule – it is hammocked between Roc and America’s Most Wanted (new time-period for both.)

Prediction: abc is bound to take the night.



Joe’s Life – 8:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (sitcom)

Peter Onorati stars as an unemployed electrician who takes on the household chores, including a 14-year old daughter and a seven-year old son, while his wife is out working as an office temp.

From the producer of Roseanne, this show might survive as the lead-in to Home Improvement.

Grace Under Fire – 9:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. (sitcom)

Brett Butler stars as a woman who recently ended a bad marriage and is trying to hold down a job to support her three children.

From the producers of Roseanne and The Cosby Show, Grace should survive, especially with Home Improvement as the lead-in.


The Trouble With Larry – 8 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (sitcom)

Bronson Pinchot (Perfect Strangers) stars as a man who has been in exile for 15 years and now returns to the States to claim his wife. Problem is, believing her first husband to be dead, the wife has remarried.

The pilot was hysterically funny. This one is a hit.

The Nanny – 8:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (sitcom)

Fran Drescher (Princesses) stars as a street-smart Jewish salesgirl who takes the job of nanny to the children of a handsome English producer. This one will survive.

South of Sunset – 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. (action-drama)

Glenn Frey stars as a former Hollywood studio security chief who opens his own detective agency. Frey is assisted in his investigations by a tough rap-talking black teenager, a la 48 Hours. Up against Home Improvement and Melrose Place, this one is a miss.


NBC Newsmagazine – 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. (newsmagazine)

Tom Brokaw, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, and Katie Couric, co-anchor of Today, join together as anchors of this primetime news program. Sure to be a survivor.

Prediction: While Fox will be the winner against young adults (Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place), there will not be a clear winner for the night. cbs will win the 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. period, abc wins the 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. period and nbc wins the 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. period.



Missing Persons – 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. (drama)

Stars Daniel J. Travanti (Hill Street Blues) as the head of the Chicago Police Department Missing Persons Bureau. Up against the comedy fare on nbc and Fox, Missing Persons misses.


Eye to Eye with Connie Chung – 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. (newsmagazine)

This newsmagazine covers topical issues, stories of the week/day, and offers correspondence with a point of view. Connie will survive.

Angel Falls – 10 p.m. -11 p.m. (serial)

There was no pilot for this one, but it will supposedly be ‘a contemporary Peyton Place.’ Up against L.A. Law and Prime Time Live, chances are this one will miss. However, loyal Knots Landing fans could use another primetime soap so, depending on what the pilot looks like, we may call this one a survivor.


Frasier – 9:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. (sitcom)

Kelsey Grammer (Cheers) continues in his role as Dr. Frasier Crane but he has moved to Seattle to make a fresh start as a radio shrink.

With Seinfeld as a lead-in and the popularity of Frasier Crane from Cheers, Frasier is bound to be a hit.


Sinbad – 8:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (sitcom)

Sinbad (Different World) joins Fox this year in a half-hour comedy in which he portrays a single, successful bachelor who decides to adopt two children.

There was no pilot for this show, but judging from Sinbad’s popularity from his cable shows, his show should capitalize on the lead-in from The Simpsons and be a survivor.

Prediction: Fox takes the night for the younger audiences, but nbc wins overall.



Boy Meets World – 8 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (sitcom)

An 11-year-old boy and his younger sister engage in the usual pre-teen parent-annoying activities.

With Family Matters as lead-in, and not much in the way of competition, this one will survive.


It Had To Be You – 8 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (sitcom)

This romantic comedy stars Faye Dunaway as a successful socialite who works as the publisher of a high-fashion magazine.

If the pilot is any indication, this one will be a sure survivor.


Against the Grain – 8 p.m. -9 p.m.

A former star quarterback-turned-insurance salesman steps in to coach a high school football team.

From the producers of Knots Landing, Dallas, and Eight is Enough, Against the Grain is a survivor.

The NBC Friday Mystery – 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. (mystery movies)

A good variety of mysteries will ensure the survival of this time-period for nbc.


The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. – 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. (action-western)

This male-oriented, action-packed western stars Bruce Campbell as a law enforcer in the West.

Judging by the success of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, the western could be gaining in popularity. This one has some funny scenes as well as being action-packed and should, therefore, survive.

The X-Files – 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. (drama)

Based on fbi files on the paranormal, this drama centres around a male special agent who believes in the paranormal and a female special agent who does not, and how, together, they must crack ‘weird’ cases.


Prediction: A tight race between cbs and abc, but cbs will take it.



George – 8 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (sitcom)

Stars George Foreman as a retired heavyweight boxer who takes on the leadership of an afterschool program for ghetto youths who are in trouble.


The Paula Poundstone Show – 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. (comedy-variety hour)

This late-developed show features stand-up comedienne Paula Poundstone in a mixture of variety, talk-show and other entertainment-oriented formats.

This type of entertainment should survive on a Saturday night.


Harts of the West – 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. (western drama)

A middle-aged lingerie salesman gives up life in the big city to move his wife and family to Nevada, where they operate a dude ranch. Beau and Lloyd Bridges star.

Will hold on to the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman viewers and survive.


The Mommies – 8 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (sitcom)

Two suburban housewives talk candidly about life, love, minivans and motherhood.

Up against Cops and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, this is a miss.

Cafe Americain – 8:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (sitcom)

Valerie Bertinelli stars as a recently divorced woman who goes to Paris to live an exciting and romantic life. Instead, she ends up getting a job as the manager of a hangout for American travellers.

The characters are quirky enough to make this one a survivor.


Front Page – 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. (newsmagazine)

News on Saturday night? Miss.

Prediction: nbc will take the night.



Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.

A contemporary Superman? If this survives, it will not be for long.

SeaQuest DSV- 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.

This series follows the adventures of the crew of a special high-tech submarine that sails under the oceans of the world in the year 2018.

Could have a Star Trek following and survive.


Townsend Television – 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. (variety)

This show stars Robert Townsend, who is being touted as the ‘Ed Sullivan of the ’90s.’ It will feature comedy skits, musical guests and stand-up comedy.

Provides good alternative programming to 60 Minutes and should survive.

Daddy Dearest – 9:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. (sitcom)

This show stars Richard Lewis (Anything But Love) as a newly divorced father raising an eight-year-old son. Unfortunately for him, his father, played by Don Rickles, has moved in with him.

With Married…with Children as its lead-in, and the Lewis-Rickles combination, this one should be a survivor, bordering on hit status.

Prediction: cbs will take the night with the unbeatable 60 Minutes/Murder, She Wrote/Movies line-up.

Unfortunately, without the Toronto schedules, we are unable to consider the implications of simulcasting, or time-period position.

Nevertheless, here are our predictions for the top five new shows this fall:

1. Phenom

2. Frasier

3. Dave’s World

4. Daddy Dearest

5. The Nanny

As far as the top 10 appointments in Toronto this fall, buyers will find their adult 25-54 target group watching these must-see shows:

1. Seinfeld

2. Home Improvement

3. Roseanne

4. 60 Minutes

5. Beverly Hills 90210

6. Murder, She Wrote

7. Wings

8. The Simpsons

9. Star Trek: The Next Generation

10. Murphy Brown

Marci Pearlman is vice-president, group media director, and Vilma Ditata is associate media director at McKim Media Group in Toronto.