Survival of the fittest for ’93/’94

This past season saw the cancellation of 67% of new programs.Hence, Initiative Media's review of the new season will focus on programs most likely to survive rather than dwelling on those anticipated to fail.As such, only one-third of the 38 u.s....

This past season saw the cancellation of 67% of new programs.

Hence, Initiative Media’s review of the new season will focus on programs most likely to survive rather than dwelling on those anticipated to fail.

As such, only one-third of the 38 u.s. shows being introduced this year are anticipated to survive.

The statistics from last year indicate that only 14 of the 42 new u.s. and Canadian shows made it, for a weak 33% survival rate.

With no reason for altering this incredibly high failure rate, our new season focus is ‘Survival of the Fittest.’

Family Entertainment: A Primary Theme

There is a strong movement by the u.s. networks to back-to-basics, safe BROADcasting in the form of family entertainment.

After chasing the single yuppie office antics of the late 1980s, then hip thirtysomething relationships, and the recent youth-oriented shows spawned by Fox, networks have returned to the safety net of families.

Albeit, the form of the family unit is much more contemporary than the traditional nuclear family.

Many of today’s tv families are headed by single parents supporting families, disciplining children and dating (The Second Half, It Had To Be You).

In fact, we are now seeing families in the ’90s portrayed as stay-at-home Mr. Moms with career wives (Joe’s Life) and divorcees with live-in dads (Frasier.)

While there are a rash of single parent entries, vintage two-parent household shows are still alive with Dave’s World and the superbly produced one-hour drama, Against The Grain, depicting family values.

Sunday night has traditionally been a family night.

On this night, abc is experimenting with a super hero concept for the family and will launch a Superman program titled Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman.

Secondary Themes:

Ensemble comedies, newsmagazines, western frontier stories and female comedians round out the balance of programming types being scheduled in the u.s. this year.

In tandem with family sitcoms, the successful and safe ensemble comedy formula (The John Larroquette Show) continues to play a part in network schedules.

Expanded story-line opportunities exist with a large cast of characters which can often offset the risks associated with a solo star in a family show.

While not as popular in Canada, u.s. newsmagazine shows are being scheduled on the u.s. nets (Eye To Eye With Connie Chung, NBC News Magazine with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric.)

To a lesser degree, we are seeing the nets pepper their schedules with western-flavored frontier life (Harts Of The West.)

In a further attempt to expand on the comedy theme, programmers are testing the water with strong female comedians and female issues (The Paula Poundstone Show.)

Fading Themes:

Increased scrutiny towards violence in tv programming has resulted in the token appearance of only a few action-packed programs (NYPD Blue) and the absence of new reality programs with violence.

Another fading theme from the tv screen this year is reality programming. This inexpensive programming favorite of a few years past appears to have run its course with only one new entry for the season (Missing Persons.)

Survivors:

Based on short clips viewed at u.s. screenings, Initiative Media has compiled a survival list of five new shows anticipated to last out the season and three programs earning honorable mentions.

Full pilots of the new u.s. shows were not available at press time. The following, therefore, is a preliminary assessment, and will be finalized with the June issue of Initiative Media’s monthly newsletter ‘MediaMix.’

At that time, all pilots will be previewed in full versus the two- to five-minute screening clips.

In addition, Canadian stations will have finalized their schedules and a full assessment of Canadian program developments will also be included in Initiative’s ‘MediaMix.’

Initiative Media’s Top Five Picks:

It Had to be You

Premise – Divorced, female publishing executive (Faye Dunaway) meets carpenter (Robert Urich) with three sons. Dunaway’s character could be the next Murphy Brown, in a relationship with adolescent children.

Strong point – Well-known actors. Dunaway is a strong actress and Urich is well-cast this season. Strong writing.

Weak point – Friday at 8 p.m. is a cellar time-period.

Bottom line – Once a weekday cbs casualty occurs, the network will move It Had to be You to a higher viewing time-period.

Frasier

Premise – Dr. Frasier Crane, from Cheers, is divorced and moves to Seattle to become a radio shrink. His Oscar Madison-like father moves in and cramps his lifestyle.

Strong point – Established carry-over character from Cheers; strong writing team from Cheers; excellent Thursday night lead-in position behind Seinfeld; weak Thursday night competition.

Weak point – Can Kelsey Grammer carry a show?

Bottom line – nbc’s dominant Thursday night lineup continues.

Dave’s World

Premise – Harry Anderson of Night Court fame is a family man who is coping with the demands of parenthood and the frustration of lost youth.

Strong point – Harry Anderson has established star appeal; strong writer with Dave Berry the syndicated humor columnist; excellent time-period on Monday night sandwiched between Evening Shade and Murphy Brown.

Weak point – Pilot looked weak. Husband/wife team lacked chemistry.

Bottom line – Superb Monday night positioning should carry the show.

NYPD Blue

Premise – A mismatched police partner team from New York’s police department; heavy on violence and steamy adult scenes.

Strong point – Producer Steven Bochco of Hill Street Blues and Doogie Howser fame; no competition on Tuesday at 10 p.m; strong Coach lead-in position.

Weak point – Hill Street Blues was a critical success, not a ratings winner; one of Bochco’s latest ventures, Cop Rock, was an abysmal failure.

Bottom line – Bochco is doing what he does best, police action.

The John Larroquette Show

Premise – Down and out, recovering alcoholic takes manager’s graveyard shift at a St. Louis bus depot. Bizarre characters hang out at the depot’s coffee shop.

Strong point – John Larroquette star appeal; ensemble cast; great storyline opportunities with bus depot; proven writing team.

Weak point – Up against the mighty Roseanne; weak time-period.

Bottom line – tv viewers will decide if this is a perfect alternative to Roseanne.

Honorable mentions

The Second Half

Harts of the West

The X-Files

Initiative Media’s Top 10 Returning Shows:

In looking ahead to the 10 returning and new show ranking, Initiative Media does not anticipate any new shows to break into the top 10 in Toronto. The ’92-93 season did not break any new hits.

The following forecast anticipates the outcome of the Fall ’93 bbm for adults 18+, excluding specials and assumes a simulcast position with the U.S. networks for those shows currently airing simultaneously with a u.s. border station.

The Top 10:

Seinfeld

Molson Hockey Night in Canada

Roseanne

60 Minutes

Murder, She Wrote

Home Improvement

Wings

The Simpsons

Coach

Molson Leaf Hockey on Global

Audrey Yates is vice-president and director of broadcast buying at Toronto-based Initiative Media.