Sex/violence backlash reflected in new shows

Weird, quirky and hard-edged are not adjectives that will be used to describe the 1993-94 new season offerings.More common comments are conservative, safe, family-oriented.The reason for the safe approach is exactly that - safety.Safety from government regulation in the midst of...

Weird, quirky and hard-edged are not adjectives that will be used to describe the 1993-94 new season offerings.

More common comments are conservative, safe, family-oriented.

The reason for the safe approach is exactly that – safety.

Safety from government regulation in the midst of a middle-American groundswell against sex and violence on tv, and, in particular, safety from the displeasure of the advertising community, which wishes to avoid government interference.

Protecting zero-growth revenues, the networks have responded to the advertiser community’s displeasure concerning overt violence and sex and have toned it down to exemplify more traditional attitudes.

The networks have also responded with, to quote Warren Littlefield of nbc, ‘a reality check.’

Much to the advertising community’s delight, fewer reality shows will air. nbc is down from four hours to two. cbs has cut two hours and abc has removed one.

Combined, the networks are offering 38 new shows. Family entertainment is the backbone, with 23 pilots centred around tightly knit modern family units.

Ten action dramas made it to the schedule and with only one exception, Steven Bochco’s NYPD Blue, all qualify as family entertainment.

The variety format has been resurrected with two entries, The Paula Poundstone Show (abc) and Townsend Television (Fox) which are building on the popularity of In Living Color.

Notably, the networks are once again trying to solidify schedules by including three new newsmagazine shows of which Connie Chung’s Eye to Eye is the most widely anticipated.

Today’s family

Although the networks have moved away from the reality genre, nine of the new shows centre around Hollywood’s notion of today’s family – single parent households.

As the networks strive to cash in on previous successes, nine standup comics have been cast in leading roles similar to those held by Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Arnold and Tim Allen.

abc has eight new hours – eight half-hour comedies, of which three are starring proven standup comics, plus a one-hour variety show starring standup comic Paula Poundstone and three one-hour action shows: NYPD Blue, Missing Persons, and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Strong nights

The abc network should take Tuesday and Friday nights.

Reworking their Tuesday line-up, Phenom, starring Judith Light, will be helped by a hammock position between two powerhouses, Full House and Roseanne.

At 10 p.m., Steven Bochco’s NYPD Blue airs, testing the acceptable boundaries of tv sex, violence and language.

Teens and families will stick to the set Friday night with three returning sitcoms and the addition of Boy Meets World, an 11-year-old’s (Ben Savage, Fred’s brother) perspective on life a la Wonder Years.

cbs has 6 1/2 new hours, including five half-hour comedies, an hour-long comedy (Harts of the West), an action show (South of Sunset), a serial drama (Angel Falls) to replace Knots Landing, and Connie Chung’s newsmagazine.

The only network to change Monday night, cbs has added Dave’s World (8:30 p.m.), starring Harry Anderson as a humorist who writes a syndicated column.

Positioned between Evening Shade and Murphy Brown, Dave will likely survive ’93 and cbs will take the night.

Saturday will also belong to cbs.

Going country, it has hammocked Harts of the West (9 p.m.) between the successful Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and the toned-down Chuck Norris in Walker, Texas Ranger.

Electing to stay with their winning formula of 60 Minutes and Murder, She Wrote, cbs is poised to take Sunday night.

It is our prediction cbs is heading to finish the ’93-94 season in No. 1 position.

To pull itself out of third spot, nbc has replaced 8 1/2 hours, of which 3 1/2 are half-hour sitcoms.

The remaining shows consist of two action/dramas, one newsmagazine and a resurrected Mystery Movie Wheel on Friday evenings.

Thursday open

Thursday has been nbc’s.

With the end of the Cheers reign, this is not guaranteed in ’93. However, it has stacked the odds in its favor with the return of Mad About You, Wings, Seinfeld and L.A. Law. Frasier, the only Cheers spin-off, should do well at 9:30 p.m.

In Fox’s watershed season, it will be programming seven nights, strategically counter-programming the Big Three, and broadening its demographic appeal by offering four half-hour sitcoms, two one-hour dramas, one variety show, and one newsmagazine show, all relatively conservative and family-oriented.

Not lose sight

With any luck, Fox will not lose sight of its traditional 18-34 stronghold.

The winning formula of Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place will once again take the under-35s on Wednesday.

We predict their attempt to outprogram nbc’s Thursday night is likely to have limited success. We predict their attempt to counter-program Saturday night with reality programs will fall short.

We have attempted to provide the readers of Strategy with a brief overview of the new fall season.

Without the advantage of viewing full pilots, our opinions are based on u.s. network presentations, knowledge of the competitive position and nature of each program scheduled, and widespread industry/trade chatter.

Canadian networks have yet to release their fall schedules. Obviously, the ability to simulcast u.s. shows will benefit Canadian broadcasters and their customers.

Equally, a complete analysis cannot be made without first giving proper consideration to Canadian programming.

It would appear that the four u.s. networks have moved in unison towards safe ground, believing in the old adage: ‘There is safety in numbers.’

Predictions

Top 10 Shows

Seinfeld

Beverly Hills 90210

Roseanne

60 Minutes

Fresh Prince

Melrose Place

The Simpsons

Wings

Coach

Frasier

Top Five New Shows

The John Larroquette Show

Dave’s World

Frasier

Sinbad

Harts of the West

Karen Newton is vice-president, broadcast operations at Media Buying Services in Toronto.