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On the Air

The latest news from the TV beat

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‘Scene’ Stealers

It doesn’t take a crime scene investigator to uncover the latest trend in drama development: CSI rip-offs. And ironically, CBS — CSI’s network home — is the main one doing the ripping off. The Eye is developing both a spin-off of the coroner show, which will be set in Miami, as well as a drama about the missing persons unit of the FBI, both from CSI executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer. ABC, meanwhile, is investigating doing a drama about the goings-on at the Centers for Disease Control. ”Procedurals are the hot property these days,” says one development executive. ”CSI is a reconfiguration of a proven genre, and in CSI there is crime and suspense, which you find in any good mystery.” Wannabes of The West Wing are also receiving high approval ratings. ABC is developing dramas about a big-city mayor and a young congressional staffer. Fox has a drama about the D.C.-based Secret Service, while NBC has one that focuses on a naive man who becomes a U.S. senator. CBS, meanwhile, has a behind-the-scenes look at Washington power brokers called Georgetown and even a comedy starring Nathan Lane as a television actor-turned-congressman. Since Sept. 11 ”Washington is very much in the public’s consciousness,” the development executive says. Now we just have to hope these copycats don’t render us unconscious.

The Fight Stuff

War, what is it good for? A prime-time series, apparently. ABC has greenlit a pitch from Bruckheimer (yup, him again) and Cops producer Bertram van Munster to develop a docudrama, to air as early as this summer, about U.S. soldiers on the front lines. ABC says the Pentagon is granting the gritty reality hour, Profiles From the Front Line, unfettered access to war zones in Afghanistan, South America, and the Philippines. ”We are looking for great, strong stories and characters,” says ABC’s head of specials, Andrea Wong, who’s unfazed by the frontline setting. But not everyone’s keen on Profiles. Because van Munster reportedly proclaimed the series ”pro-American” and ”pro-military,” and that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have given it a thumbs-up, some folks are crying jingoism. ”Sure the project will make for compelling television,” says Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. ”But it still sounds eerily like government-sponsored programming, and that’s a concept many Americans find uncomfortable.” That, and little show called According to Jim.