1994 Fall TV Preview Saturday
In the wake of the mighty 'Dr. Quinn,' fare for families flourishes
Jane Seymour is savoring the sweetness of a long shot’s victory. In the 20 months since her critically maligned Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman premiered, the drama has started a stampede of wholesome programming, and now the wannabes are moving in on her Saturday-night turf. ”It’s incredibly flattering,” says Seymour. ”Every time I see a new family show, I say, ‘Yeah! More for my kids to watch.’ I’m trying to wean them off Hard Copy.”
* Once upon a time, Saturday TV was a family magnet, especially CBS’ ace lineup of All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and Carol Burnett. But in the era of cable and videos, Saturday ratings slipped to the week’s lowest, and the evening turned into something of a dumping ground (remember last year’s The Paula Poundstone Show on ABC? Didn’t think so). ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert shrugs. ”I could put Home Improvement there, but why would I want to lose five to six ratings points?”
* Instead, inspired by Dr. Quinn, Harbert and his network peers have developed a Saturday-night fever for feel-good, clean-cut offerings. (Odd man out is Fox’s Sandy Grushow, who is sticking with the grittier Cops and America’s Most Wanted. ”The other guys have left us a clear field,” he notes.)
* For its part, ABC will remake such Disney film classics as 1959’s The Shaggy Dog, 1975’s Escape to Witch Mountain, and 1977’s Freaky Friday for a two-hour movie block at 8 p.m. The network hopes tykes will tune in for the kid-oriented material, with their baby-boomer parents joining in to reexperience the Disney movies of their youth.
The as-yet-ungauged nostalgia value of Witch Mountain notwithstanding, parents searching for TV role models for their children might prefer to flip to NBC’s new legal drama, Sweet Justice (see page 78). Presiding there are two paragons of jurisprudential virtue, embodied by Cicely Tyson (who calls her character ”an independent, strong woman who is still able to contribute to humankind”) and Melissa Gilbert (who calls her character ”pretty open and idealistic, very strong and independent”).
Sweet Justice will be followed on NBC by the touchy-feely Sisters, which might be properly categorized as dysfunctional-family programming. ”My kids only get to see the show once in a blue moon because sometimes the material is a little too adult,” reports sister Patricia Kalember. ”How do you say, ‘Uh, kids, I’m going to try to kill myself tonight’?” What do her kids watch? Baywatch. And Dr. Quinn. But beware, Mom and Dad-even the prim lady doc will eventually take a walk on the wild side. Will she finally unhitch her chastity belt this year? ”That will end at some point, but I can’t give anything away,” says Seymour. Is that a double entendre, Jane? ”No,” she laughs. ”I’m not giving anything away!” —Alan Carter
NBC, 8-8:30 p.m. (premieres Oct. 1)
* Concept: Um, Gene Wilder needed a job? * The Scoop: Wilder plays a middle-aged fellow who is the father of twins; much new-dad-doing-crazy-things humor is guaranteed to occur. Dirty Dancing‘s Jennifer Grey was originally cast as Wilder’s wife, but test audiences apparently didn’t like seeing poor Gene with such a younger woman. (Grey’s replacement is Hillary B. Smith.) Ask Wilder how he feels about being scheduled opposite big hit Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and you can just hear his trademark gentle whine of a voice: ”I don’t even know who I’m going up against. I don’t care much for show business, so I don’t know much about-look, if you didn’t tell me who it was, I wouldn’t know.” * Bottom Line: Gene, you’re up against Dr. Quinn! Your ratings goose is cooked! This means Orson Bean’s career is in better shape than yours-no wonder you don’t care much for show business!
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman