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The latest news from the TV beat

”The Wizard of Oz” and Jimmy Smits made news the week of May 1, 1998

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We’re off…

Bad news, friends of Dorothy: After CBS’ sweeps airing of The Wizard of Oz, the classic will permanently move from broadcast TV to cable’s Turner Broadcasting, whose owner, Ted Turner, acquired the film years ago when he bought the MGM library.

May polls

Speaking of sweeps, it’s a foregone conclusion that NBC, armed with Merlin and the Seinfeld finale, will win the month, but the real battle will be for second place, with CBS hoping such female-friendly fare as the tearjerker Nicholas’ Gift (starring Jamie Lee Curtis), the two-part movie Only Love (with Marisa Tomei), and the Cher Remembers Sonny special will give it a boost.

As for ABC, top-heavy with theatricals (Whitney Houston’s Waiting to Exhale, John Travolta’s Broken Arrow, The Lion King), it’s praying there’s fuel left in Tom Hanks’ Apollo 13, which the network is airing not once, but twice. Considering the net’s lackluster Saturday programming, its execs figured, why not? The Alphabet’s only big original miniseries for the month is Peter Benchley’s Creature.

Except for its Godzilla ”homage,” Gargantua, Fox is taking the low-budget approach, airing more reality specials (or ”snuff films,” as NBC West Coast prez Don Ohlmeyer once called them). Besides World’s Scariest Police Chases 5 and another Breaking the Magician’s Code, the net will charge ahead with a repeat of its infamous When Animals Attack.

And so on

Jimmy Smits’ impending departure from ABC’s NYPD Blue was not all that surprising to exec producer Steven Bochco. ”This is a guy who feels there are other things to do,” says Bochco, adding ”I’ll feel the loss, but you have to root for your pals.” The difference between Bochco’s attitude toward Smits’ exit and that of predecessor David Caruso (who also clearly felt there were other things to do)? Smits stayed for a contract-honoring four years. Don’t look for Smits’ love interest on the show to exit with him, however. ”Kim Delaney stays right where she is,” promises Bochco.