Fall TV preview: Wooing the weekend crowds
September 4, 1999
From Cynthia Tornquist
This is the final installment in a five-part series in which we look at plans for each night of the fall television season.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Night by night, the fledgling WB network has filled up the prime-time week with original, non-syndicated programming. This fall, as it shifts the comedies "Jamie Foxx," "Steve Harvey" and "For Your Love" to Friday night from Thursday, the WB will stand on its own feet for six nights of the week.
But as the major television networks prepare to roll out their fall lineups, Friday night's most prominent new players are mostly not comedies. True, the WB will add a new comedy on Friday nights -- the animated series "Mission Hill," about two battling brothers, is targeted at the 20-something crowd, according to lead voice Wallace Langham, who plays an aspiring cartoonist.
And CBS is adding a new romantic comedy, "Love & Money," about a young heiress who wants to marry her apartment building's handyman, instead of the future CEO her mother's hoping she'll pick. It joins the CBS schedule just after the returning Bill Cosby show, "Kids Say the Darndest Things."
ABC is adding a new comedy to its Friday lineup too, in the form of "Odd Man Out." Erik von Detten stars as the only boy living in a house with his mom (Markie Post) and four sisters. Says von Detten, "He's just a 15-year-old boy who wants to live a regular 15-year-old boy's life but he can't because he's got all these five women breathing down his neck."
The network may hope that "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" -- which airs just before "Odd Man Out" -- will stock the time slot with a strong carryover audience.
A 'Harsh Realm' for dramatic offerings?
After that, things just get heavier. FOX targets the male audience with the new series currently titled "Ryan Caulfield" but expected to be retitled "The Badland" shortly. The show follows Caulfield (Sean Maher), a 19-year-old who's opted to skip higher education and instead become a rookie cop with the Philadelphia Police Department.
Chris Carter's much-anticipated "Harsh Realm" follows the Caulfield show on the FOX lineup. This new series -- from the creator of "The X-Files" and "Millennium" -- is about a soldier ordered to test a top-secret virtual-reality military combat training game, which proves to be a vastly more sinister construct than it seems at first.
And CBS is countering with its own new drama, "Now and Again," about a man whose body is destroyed in a freak accident, while his brain gets a new, genetically engineered body courtesy of the U.S. government.
In exchange for his life, this artificially created "superman," played by Eric Close, has to perform dangerous tasks -- and give up contact with his family and friends. As the series starts off, Close says, his character "knows he's being tailored or trained to be a superspy-hero."
The surprise hit of last season, hourlong drama "Providence," returns to NBC. Going for a more sophisticated audience, the Peacock follows it up with "Cold Feet," a new drama based on a British series, about couples who can't commit.
'Cold foot' Fridays, Saturdays?
"Cold feet" may also sum up the Friday-night strategy of some network programmers.
"Friday night's viewing has been kind of a toss-up," says Adam Buckman, TV columnist for the New York Post. "The network TV business doesn't seem to be able to decide exactly who's home watching TV."
Saturday night leaves no doubt of the networks' intentions: Viewership for this night's prime-time period has declined in the past decade. Only one new show is joining the lineup -- NBC's "Freaks and Geeks," an hourlong drama about two teen-age siblings at a suburban high school around 1980.
But Sunday offers something for everyone. NBC's "Dateline NBC" competes with CBS' "60 Minutes." FOX introduces "Malcolm in the Middle," about a boy genius.
That leaves the other networks to counterprogram: The WB is moving "Felicity" to Sunday. And, Buckman says, "NBC is putting a very highly touted new drama series, 'Third Watch,' at 8 o'clock." From John Wells, the award-winning producer of "ER," the action-drama "Third Watch" follows the police, paramedics and firefighters on the "third watch" shift from 3 to 11 p.m.
The WB also is putting "Jack & Jill," an hourlong romantic comedy about dating in the 20-something crowd, on the Sunday roster.
And ABC pits "Snoops," a drama from award-winning producer David E. Kelley ("Picket Fences," "The Practice," "Ally McBeal"), against FOX's "The X-Files."
Gina Gershon says she got to learn how to "bug phones, break into houses, break codes" in preparing for her starring "Snoops" role as part of a team of unconventional Los Angeles private eyes. "I love that sort of thing," she says.
The question now is, will audiences love them, too?
TV shows learn fate, as networks reshuffle lineups
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