Bruce Fretts explains why these two critical faves were canceled while lesser, lower-rated Peacock shows survived

By Bruce Fretts
Updated May 27, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Homicide: Life on the Street

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‘Homicide’ and ‘NewsRadio’ were axed because of NBC’s greed

NBC committed a double murder last week, killing off two of the decade’s finest series, ”Homicide: Life on the Street” and ”NewsRadio.” Their deaths weren’t exactly shocking. Both shows’ perennially weak ratings had dipped lower this season. Although neither was enjoying its liveliest season creatively, diehard fans still mourn their loss.

Why did NBC axe ”Homicide” and ”NewsRadio” while picking up such lesser (not to mention lower-rated) series as ”Suddenly Susan” and ”Profiler”? The answer is simple: Pure greed. The first two shows have already been sold into syndication, so the Peacock doesn’t stand to profit by producing any more episodes. But if the network can just squeeze another season or two out of ”Profiler,” they’ll have enough installments to make a syndicated killing. The renewal of ”Susan” is due to NBC’s desire to keep Warner Bros. happy, in hopes that the studio will continue to turn out cash cows like ”Friends” and ”ER.”

What future classics did NBC deem fit to replace our longtime favorites? Well, taking over the Tuesday ”NewsRadio” slot will be… ”The Mike O’Malley Show”! (Just when you thought every bad stand-up comic in America had gotten his own sitcom.) Instead of offering ”Homicide” on Friday, NBC will serve up ”Cold Feet,” a dramedy about a trio of young couples. In the pilot, a woman asks her boyfriend to prove his love by standing outside in the nude and serenading her — with a rose sticking out of his butt. If only ”Homicide” had thought to plant a flower in Richard Belzer’s rear end, it might still be on the air.

NBC is also guilty of criminal misconduct for not telling the producers that their shows were being canceled in time to write fitting series finales. Thus ”NewsRadio” signed off with a quasi-cliff-hanger as station owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root) moved to New Hampshire and took along the WNYX staff — save Dave (Dave Foley) and Matthew (Andy Dick). ”Homicide” hedged its bets with a rushed, overstuffed hour that tied up some plot threads too neatly while leaving others precariously dangling.

I’ll miss these series not just as a fan but also as a critic. It’s rare that you find shows rich enough to write about numerous times, but ”Homicide” and ”NewsRadio” were constantly-evolving entities. Even if you weren’t wild about their latest incarnations, you held out hope they would reinvent themselves into something better. Which is more than can be said about two other shows NBC is bringing back for next season: ”Jesse” and ”Veronica’s Closet.”

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Homicide: Life on the Street

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