This spring, network-TV viewers could be on the receiving end of the longest goodbye since the Judds’ farewell tour. In addition to Johnny Carson, more than half a dozen TV mainstays may be gone by next fall. Here’s the forecast:
Cheers: Its budget is astronomical (Ted Danson’s salary alone adds nearly $500,000 to the weekly bill), but Cheers remains NBC’s top show. An 11th season — if the cast is willing and the network can afford it — is still possible; so is a spin-off starring Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) and Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith).
The Cosby Show: This May will mark the end of the Huxtable clan’s eight-year run, but don’t expect an eventful farewell; Cosby wants the finale to play as a typical episode. Talk of a spin-off with Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Theo) has cooled, but Erika Alexander (Pam) could take her character to A Different World next fall.
The Golden Girls: With Beatrice Arthur and Estelle Getty tiring of their roles after seven years, the show’s producers may continue with a revamped version — or put the entire cast into a completely new sitcom.
Knots Landing: Expensive to produce and long in the tooth, CBS’ 13-year-old soap has suffered from dreadful story lines and dwindling ratings (it’s fallen to 50th place) this season. CBS will use ratings for this spring’s episodes, plotted by a new team, to determine its future.
Murder, She Wrote: After eight seasons, CBS’ attempts to re-sign Angela Lansbury have become an annual rite of spring. If the series ends, the network may enlist Lansbury for a series of two-hour Murder movies next season, and, possibly, reactivate her dormant deal to star in a sitcom.