On The Air
The latest news from the TV beat
SUMMER STOCK If you ran a business that was losing customers every year, would you close shop for three months? Probably not. But the networks are still slow to learn. The minute the season ended, ABC threw lost episodes of C-16 and Teen Angel on the air, a sure sign that it’s time to turn to cable.
Fear not, however. There will be some original fare on the nets this summer. Fox is planning to roll out new episodes of Melrose Place in July or August, hoping to jump-start what may be the serial’s last season. MP alum Josie Bissett is returning to the show, and Heather Locklear will be featured more prominently than in the past few years. Fox also plans to launch a prime-time newsmagazine and a series of specials based on The Guinness Book of World Records.
ABC will try out a new, surreal drama, Maximum Bob (based on the Elmore Leonard novel), starring Beau Bridges. And Drew Carey will host a new version of the British game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Forgoing any new series, NBC will once again rely on the ”It’s new to you” campaign asking viewers to sample missed first-run shows. Problem is, given how many times the Peacock repeated its Frasier, Seinfeld, and Just Shoot Me episodes this year, chances are the only thing new to you will be the commercials.
OVER AND OUT It was checkout time for two key ABC executives last week. First, ABC News chairman Roone Arledge turned over day-to-day operations to ABC News president David Westin. Arledge will consult on news and other network programming as a senior vice president of ABC, Inc. His many accomplishments included launching Nightline and taking ABC’s World News Tonight to the No. 1 slot for eight years, until it went south (along with ABC’s prime-time lineup) in 1997. On the downside, Arledge couldn’t shore up Good Morning America’s flagging ratings, and his drive to accumulate big-name talent — like Diane Sawyer — has been blamed for creating a style-over-substance news environment, in which outrageous salaries came at the expense of bureau shutdowns.
A bigger surprise was the resignation of Geraldine Laybourne, architect of Viacom’s Nickelodeon, who joined ABC after Disney acquired it in 1995 to oversee its cable operations. Laybourne revitalized ABC’s Saturday-morning programming. But, after unsuccessful attempts to get Disney to launch an all-news channel and a new kids’ network, plus put more original fare on the Disney Channel, the frustrated Laybourne opted to leave to form her own production company. No hard feelings, though; ABC has an ownership stake in Laybourne’s new enterprise.