Each new season is full of network moves and countermoves, thrusts and parries, and bids for ratings breakthroughs. Here’s a night-by-night guide to the most compellin" data-categories = "" data-popup = "" data-ads = "Yes" data-company = "[]" data-outstream = "yes" data-auth = "" >

The top fights of the night By Eric Schmuckle

Each new season is full of network moves and countermoves, thrusts and parries, and bids for ratings breakthroughs. Here’s a night-by-night guide to the most compellin

MON 8:30 Dave’s World/CBS VS Blossom/NBC
Monday is the least-changed night on the network grid. The only new program is Dave’s World, though ABC moved its fledgling news-magazine Day One here and Fox will make it a regular movie night. But the 8 p.m. hour is the crucial battleground between CBS’s adult comedies and NBC’s teen-oriented ones. This season, NBC’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Blossom crept ahead in household ratings and widened their lead in demos. CBS program chief Jeff Sagansky flatly predicts Dave’s World, based on the life of humor columnist Dave Barry, will be the runaway hit of the season, but agency prognosticators aren’t overly enthused. It replaces Hearts Afire, a solid new hit that is being retooled and shipped to Friday. Dave is more family oriented, but it’s not expected to improve much on the 22 share pulled by Hearts Afire. “I see it as a wash,” says Bozell senior vp Steve Sternberg. “I don’t see Dave getting a significant amount of kids and teens,” Blossom’s core audience. Then again, Dave should be more compatible with its lead-in, Evening Shade, and could hold more of the audience. Murphy Brown, which follows Dave, could use a boost after losing a step this season creatively and in the ratings.
TUE 8 Saved by the Bell/NBC VS Full House/ABC
Most eyes are on the 9 p.m. slugfest between reigning primetime queen Roseanne and newcomer The John Larroquette Show, by most accounts NBC’s funniest pilot. But the Night Court alum will be lucky to wrest a few share points away from the formidable Ms. Arnold, and his show may be moved to more fertile ground. A more intriguing race is at 8, where NBC is going after an aging Full House. “This could be the pivotal matchup of the season,” opines Saatchi senior vp Betsy Frank. The ABC show, a cloying Top 10 hit for years thanks to a huge audience of kids, lost three share points this season against negligible competition. Bell peals into primetime from Saturday morning and syndication, where it has a devoted following among teens. Now that its high school stars have graduated, taking their lives, loves and complexions to campus, some seers believe Full House can be had. David Marans of J. Walter Thompson disagrees; the established Full House has a “great advantage,” he says, while Bell might be aimed at “too narrow a target.” Upping the stakes, the 8 o’clock winner has a good shot at taking the hour, since buyers are unimpressed with the 8:30 shows, ABC’s new Phenom and NBC’s Getting By.
WED 8 Thea/ABC VS The Trouble with Larry/CBS
The 8 o’clock hour is up for grabs here. And the new comedy slates on ABC and CBS have a real opportunity, with NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries fading fast and Fox’s zeitgeist-check, Beverly Hills 90210, in dramatic flux as its characters troop off to college. CBS has The Trouble With Larry, a new Bronson Pinchot vehicle, and The Nanny, starring the tres Noo Yawk Fran Drescher. ABC is going black with Thea and turning to in-house production with Joe’s Life, said to be one of its worst pilots. CBS’s Sagansky claims he’ll win because his shows are better. Buyers mostly agree on the quality claim but not the handicapping. Larry features a flaky premise: Pinchot is a long-lost adventurer who reappears after 15 years to move in with and annoy his since-remarried wife. And The Nanny looked funny, though not designed for the Yiddish-impaired. A few buyers expect ABC will grab the bigger audience with Thea, about a working-class widow with four kids. “You have to give some credence to ABC for having done these things very well, week after week, for years,” says Frank. But Marans points out that Unsolved and 90210 are well entrenched with their respective 35+ and 12-24 audiences, so there’s not much room in between to support new shows.
THURS 9 Seinfeld/NBC VS In Living Color/Fox
Thursday has been the night that kept NBC in business as its schedule collapsed, and the Peacock net desperately needs to keep things rolling here if it has any hopes of a turnaround next season. Post-Cheers, the net is relying heavily on a show about nothing. Seinfeld has emerged as a true hit since it moved to Thursday, increasing on Cheers’ lead-in some weeks. But next season it will have to prove itself a self-starter. Most buyers believe the show has enough momentum, and the competition won’t be too severe. Both ABC and CBS have gone after older audiences, with Matlock and the Connie Chung newsmag, respectively. Fox has moved In Living Color into permanent residence after some success with reruns of that show here this spring. But the sketch show has been denuded of the Wayanses, wounding it creatively. Fox insists a talented core of writers and performers remains, but buyers must be convinced the show still has the chops. It could use some help from its highly touted lead-in, Sinbad. Even though both 9 p.m. shows are hip young comedies, the audience overlap may be minimal. “They’re different audiences and both can live nicely in that time period,” says independent buyer Paul Shulman.
FRI 8 It Had to Be You/CBS VS Family Matters/ABC
Here’s a marquee matchup: Faye Dunaway vs. Steven Urkel. CBS is again trying to establish itself with adult comedies on Friday against the ABC kiddie colossus that is TGIF. CBS’s attempt last year tanked, succeeding only in killing off a healthy Top 10 show, Major Dad, and two declining hits, Designing Women and Golden Girls. “If established programs with major stars didn’t survive last year, how can they strike paydirt this year?” asks Marans. And many buyers believe ABC has improved TGI.F with the cute Fred Savage show Boy Meets World at 8:30 and the transplanted demihit Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper at 9:30. The opening shootout will set the tone. Family Matters, like Full House, is an aging hit with plenty of life in it. Buyers don’t know what to make of It Had to Be You, a comedy starring ’70s screen queen Dunaway and a beefy Robert Urich. The sparks don’t exactly flying between the two, but the pilot appeared well-written. “CBS will certainly get a little younger than they were with Golden Palace,” says Sternberg. “There’s a good chance they’ll go up in adults 18-49.” The wild card is Fox’s Adventures of Brisco County, an Indiana Jones-ish Western that will be tough to sustain.
SAT 9 Harts of the West/CBS VS Front Page/Fox
This race is a bit of a head-scratcher, not least because two of the programs here, Paula Poundstone on ABC and Front Page, have no pilots. No one knows what comic Poundstone will do with an hour of network TV, including Ms. Poundstone. But standup works on cable, so there’s logic to the gamble–especially since ABC owns the show. CBS is attempting to solidify a dominant Saturday. Opening the night is Dr. Quinn, a surprise hit that unsurprisingly skews old and female. At 10 is Chuck Norris’ Walker, Texas Ranger, which skews younger, male and downscale. Norris promised to tone down the show’s violence and play up relationships, which could remove its raison d’etre. The new Harts of the West tries to split the difference between its bookends. It’s a contemporary, family comedy Western (think City Slickers with Beau Bridges) that tilts more toward Quinn, the better to hold that lead-in. Front Page might corral some Quinn-watchers, since newsmags tend to skew old, though with Fox’s young profile all bets are off. Still, Saturday’s the only night without a newsmag, and placing Front Page after the stalwart Cops hour makes sense. And news, of a sort, is dear to Rupert Murdoch’s heart.
SUN 8 Lois & Clark/ABC VS SeaQuest/NBC
Look for this showdown to grace the cover of Entertainment Weekly round about August. This mano a mano of the two most anticipated hours on the fall sked (keep your shirt on, NYPD Blue) is, as one seer put it, “a real battle of the bands.” As the title indicates, Lois & Clark emphasizes romance over superhero hijinks, thus appealing to women. SeaQuest, dark and taut, targets men. Can both survive? Unlikely. CBS’s Murder She Wrote racks up big household ratings (and decent 25-54 demos) and may well benefit from this competition. The adventure shows “could knock each other off. It’s like playing chicken with the time period,” says Paul Shulman. “They’re fighting for 35 to 38 share points between ‘cm.” So far, most people give Lois & Clark the edge. The story is presold, the sexy stars are highly promotable and it’s got a stronger, more compatible lead-in, the America’s Funniest video shows. Plus, it’s more fun. The futuristic SeaQuest offers a Spielberg production credit, special effects and Roy Scheider in a wetsuit. But the real winner here could be Fox. In textbook counterprogramming, it’s moving the underrated Martin and launching My Girls, a black-and-sassy Designing Women.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)