SATURDAY-NIGHT FEVER: Two of the summer’s unhappiest campers are key ABC producers David E. Kelley and Steven Bochco, both of whom have fall dramas on deadly Saturday night. Kelley was hoping for a Wednesday-night home for his critically acclaimed drama The Practice, even if it meant going up against his own medical drama, Chicago Hope, on CBS (in its new fall home). Fat chance as long as Diane Sawyer is on PrimeTime Live. Problem is, ABC gave Kelley the impression he did have a shot at the spot.
Twentieth Century Fox TV, where the producer is based, declines to comment. But an executive close to The Practice says that Kelley is so frustrated he may relinquish direct oversight of the show, focusing the bulk of his efforts instead on Ally McBeal, his new Fox dramedy, and Hope, a show he hasn’t been directly involved with for about two years. Star Dylan McDermott was miffed enough by the Saturday slot that he blew off the festivities at ABC’s fall-schedule unveiling in New York last month, during which he was expected to schmooze advertisers.
Bochco, meanwhile, was already mad at ABC for pulling Murder One off the schedule earlier this year, and with his action-adventure series Total Security slated right before The Practice at 9 p.m., all he’ll say is, ”It’s better than Thursday.” Fortunately for him, this is his last ABC show, as his new deal at CBS is already under way with Brooklyn South, a cop drama moving into, ironically enough, Chicago Hope‘s 10 p.m. Monday spot this fall.
BARE WITH THEM: NBC’s The Naked Truth will undergo major surgery before it resurfaces on Mondays this fall. New exec producer Michael Saltzman (Murphy Brown) may give Tea Leoni’s Nora Wilde yet another position at the tabloid (she’s already been a paparazzo and an advice columnist). Still no word on the new job, but Jonathan Penner (Nick Columbus) and Darryl Sivad (T.J.) are as good as gone. Definitely returning: Mark Roberts (Dave) and Holland Taylor (Camilla Dane). Possibly walking: George Wendt (Les Polonsky), who won’t stay if he’s unhappy with the tweaking.
LET’S MAKE A DEAL: Stars fighting producers and networks? Old news. These days, the ugliest wars are waged in executive suites. NBC has already battled with DreamWorks TV; in return for providing talent, the Peacock wanted partial ownership of several series the studio had in development at the network. DreamWorks said no, and the shows are on hold. And Fox recently took on producer Brillstein-Grey; after ordering a sitcom, and upon seeing the pilot, the network refused to pay full price. A settlement was reached before too much blood was spilled.
Now Disney’s ABC has entered the ring. According to industry sources, the network wants five-year deals from studios for all its new shows (ABC refuses to comment). The usual deal is four years, with an option for renegotiation in the third if the show is successful. But ABC is looking to cut costs: Networks pay studios a lump sum when an initial deal is struck and have to ante up a second time when the shows are renegotiated; with five years, the Alphabet would get an additional year of episodes before being hit in the wallet again.