All three networks have announced their fall schedules with the shows they’ve kept, killed and created. There are no surprises, of course. This is network TV, where imitation is the sheerest form of greed. But there are plenty of changes—18 hours of new shows in prime time. Here are the high points and low.
THE BEST NIGHT ON TV: Seems to be Thursday on NBC. It starts at 8 with a new entry, The Bill Cosby Show, starring Mr. Jell-O Pudding Pops as a comic obstetrician. That’s followed by three top-quality sitcoms—Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court, a promising show starring Harry Anderson, the funny flim-flam man, as a judge. The evening ends with the still-chic Hill Street Blues at 10.
THE WORST NIGHT ON TV: Has to be Tuesday on all three networks. CBS starts the bidding with the insipid After MASH. NBC beats that, hands down, with the mindless but moneymaking A-Team and Riptide. But ABC could win this season’s booby-tube prize with its schedule: Foul-ups, Bleeps and Blunders and Three’s A Crowd (that’s Three’s-Company minus sex symbols), followed by two new shows: Paper Dolls (more on that below) and Jessie (with Lindsay Wagner as a police shrink). Make Tuesday your bowling night.
HERE’S HOPING: That V the series will be as good as V the minis. You’ll have a chance to judge that, since NBC will be rerunning the minis (chopped up into weekly shows) before it premieres the new episodes on Oct. 26.
CONCEPTS WHOSE TIMES HAVE COME: In TV jargon a show is “high-concept” if it is so simple (and thus simpleminded). that it can be described in one sentence. Here’s the ultimate: ABC’s Street-hawk, starring Rex Smith as a cop, a “daredevil on two wheels” (to quote the network) who rides the world’s fastest motorcycle, “the ultimate crime-fighting vehicle,” equipped with weapons and “hyperthrust.” This is Blue Thunder without wings, The A-Team without T. Another high-concept but wholesome show: Michael Landon plays an angel who comes to earth to “spread little bits of joy” in NBC’s Highway to Heaven.
TRENDS FOR THE TAKING: May the network exec who first thought of filling shows with bloopers and practical jokes be forced to watch them for eternity; that is hell well defined. They are back this season on ABC’s Foul-ups etc. and its new People Do the Craziest Things and on NBC’s TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes. There’s also a new trend this season in fashion shows: ABC’s Paper Dolls, starring Morgan Fairchild and Lloyd Bridges (Dynasty in the closet), and CBS’ Cover Up, starring Jon-Erik Hexum as a model and Jennifer O’Neill as a photographer who are really crime fighters (very high-concept). The one trend that didn’t take, surprisingly, is music videos. Only one prime-time show, CBS’ Dreams, makes the tie-in with a show about a struggling Philadelphia rock band.
EXCUSES FOR CHASE SCENES: Oh, so many of them—Hunter, from A-Team creator Stephen J. Cannell, about a pair of “unorthodox undercover detectives” (that’s certainly fresh); Miami Vice, about a pair of “offbeat vice detectives” (a variation on the theme); Partners in Crime, starring Lynda Carter and Loni Anderson as private eyes in beautiful San Francisco; and Hot Pursuit, about a woman framed for murder who’s on the run—all from NBC—not to mention ABC’s Honolulu Run (Magnum has new neighbors) and Streethawk.
WELCOME RETURNS: NBC’s Thursday lineup, plus its Remington Steele and St. Elsewhere, and CBS’ Kate & Allie and Airwolf. If you’re addicted to nighttime soaps, you’ll also be glad to know that Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest will be back.
A FOND FAREWELL TO: NBC’s The Yellow Rose and The Duck Factory (the critics loved it but it was killed before it had a chance) and CBS’ Domestic Life and Maggie Briggs.
GOOD RIDDANCE TO: Lots of deservedly dead shows—ABC’s Shaping Up, a. Pablo, Fantasy Island and Blue Thunder; CBS’ Four Seasons; and NBC’s Real People, Mama’s Family, Legmen, People Are Funny, We Got It Made and The Master.
There are more new shows. But so much for the fall; we still have the rest of May to go. Here are a few humble offerings: