Newsmags, Roseanne and Martin Short made news the week of May 22, 1998


With NBC planning another night of Dateline NBC, CBS wanting a second 60 Minutes, and Fox contemplating a newsmagazine this summer, what does that say about TV’s entertainment divisions? Are they creatively bankrupt? Or are net execs simply eager to replace the more expensive dramas and sitcoms with relatively cheap news shows?

Both, actually. NBC West Coast prez Don Ohlmeyer laments that with six networks and scores of cable channels, the creative community is stretched pretty thin. ”The ability to put together good writers and a good cast has been diminished,” he says.

Ohlmeyer also maintains that in the end, Dateline is no less expensive than a new series. After all, while NBC pays for only 22 to 26 episodes of a single new drama or comedy, it has to produce around 45 episodes of, say, a Monday-night edition of Dateline, since newsmags don’t fare well in repeats.

Cheaper or not, Dateline et al. are loved by execs because that type of programming is perfect for channel surfers. ”I think the newsmagazines have tapped into what I call the switcher mentality. It’s great to be able to come into a show and get a 15-minute pop on something without committing to it,” says CBS TV CEO Leslie Moonves.

Meanwhile, the studios will have to grin and bear the nets’ newsmag fever. ”It’s frustrating,” says one studio head. ”These shows are our enemy, but until we do a better job, we’ll just see more.”


King World, the company behind Roseanne’s new fall talk show, is prepping a daytime talker with Martin Short. Just wondering — is Short waiting in the wings in case Roseanne tanks? King World has also tapped ex-Fox After Breakfast host Tom Bergeron to emcee its Hollywood Squares remake (the one with Whoopi Goldberg as the center square).

(Additional reporting by Dan Snierson)