Joe Flint
November 20, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SETS If the Nov. 18 episode of Chicago Hope looks remarkably pristine, don’t assume your TV reception suddenly got a lot better; you’re actually seeing the future.

The episode, entitled ”The Other Cheek,” is the first prime-time show shot and broadcast in high-definition television (HDTV for the uninitiated, meaning just about all of us). What, you don’t own an HDTV set yet? No problem; hardly anyone does, given the steep price tag (the cheapest sets go for close to $10,000). But even though you won’t get the whole miraculously crisp effect, you’ll still be able to see just about every pore on Eric Stoltz’s face.

”The first thing you notice is it’s so damn clear,” says Chicago Hope executive producer Bill D’Elia, who also directed the episode. The second thing TV execs noticed is that clarity isn’t always a plus. ”With HDTV, there will have to be feature-quality makeup, bad-hair days won’t be easily hid, and the actresses who complain about how they look will really complain now,” says Ed Nassour, senior VP of TV postproduction at Twentieth Century Fox TV (Hope’s studio).

The future isn’t cheap, either. ”HDTV will require new investments every step of the way,” says Nassour, who foresees a potential HDTV-related battle brewing between networks and studios. ”Like any new technology, the question isn’t who’s going to want to use it, but rather who is going to pay for it.” Great, as if those guys needed another reason to fight.

TRADING PLACES Look for NBC to rejigger its Wednesday lineup in anticipation of the second edition of CBS’ 60 Minutes, which should land in the 9-10 p.m. slot starting early next year. The net is expected to move Dateline from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., bump 3rd Rock From the Sun to 8 p.m., and shove NewsRadio to Tuesday at 8:30 as a lead-in to Just Shoot Me. Encore! Encore!, if it’s still alive, would travel to Wednesday at 8:30. Shoot is the obvious winner here; the sitcom’s ratings have plummeted thanks to Encore!‘s pathetic lead-in.

OFF THE DEEPAK END First NBC invites New Age speaker Deepak Chopra to help raise sagging spirits at the ratings-depressed Peacock. Then Fox calls in White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey to advise on sending effective antidrug messages. (Evidently the talk made little impression: Fox aired another pot-smoking episode of That ’70s Show soon after.) And CBS? No official guests so far, but perhaps bubblegum pop group Hanson’s upcoming visit to Buddy Faro is actually a strategy for showing Tiffany execs what a young demo looks like.

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