The new fall TV schedule is rife with competitive counterprogramming
Monday's lineup makes ''Celebrity Deathmatch'' look tame
”I’m going to have to take some Advil,” says NBC scheduling guru Preston Beckman as he scans the big board in his office displaying all the networks’ fall lineups.
Given this season’s ultracompetitive counterprogramming, viewers will also face scheduling headaches, especially at 9 p.m. on Mondays, which will see CBS’ still-peaking ”Everybody Loves Raymond” battle Fox’s ”Ally McBeal”; NBC’s ”Law & Order” spin-off, ”Special Victims Unit”; and ABC’s ”Monday Night Football” — as well as The WB’s ”Safe Harbor.” ”It’s a great slot,” snipes the sarcastic ”Victims” creator Dick Wolf, who lost out on a bid for a Monday-at-10 p.m. slot to ”Dateline.” ”I can’t imagine NBC won’t move [us].”
So who will win the matchup? ”’Football’ gets the men, ‘Ally’ will get the 18-to-34 adults, CBS will skew 25 to 54, and ‘Special Victims Unit’ will fall behind — it’ll skew even older than CBS,” predicts Ogilvy & Mather media buyer Peter Chrisanthopoulos.
But Beckman, ever the optimist, sees hope for the Big Four’s Monday gridlock. ”There’s a lot of choices for different groups of people. It’s a chance for all the networks to add viewers.”
Tuesdays are a different story. NBC has already rejiggered its sitcom lineup to lure viewers from ABC. At 8 p.m. the workplace shenanigans of ”Just Shoot Me” square off against the workplace shenanigans of ”Spin City,” while at 9 p.m. ”Will & Grace”’s wacky duo dukes it out with the wacky duo of ”Dharma & Greg.” The biggest beneficiary from the Peacock’s rescheduling may be ABC’s ratings-challenged ”Sports Night,” which now has to stare down only NBC newcomer ”The Mike O’Malley Show” rather than the more formidable ”W&G.” CBS is fielding the sitcom-less lineup of ”JAG,” ”60 Minutes II,” and the new drama ”Judging Amy.” As for Fox, follow the bouncing ball: The female-friendly half-hour ”Ally” spin-off leads into male-skewing ”That ’70s Show,” then female magnet ”Party of Five.” Not exactly Tinker to Evers to Chance in terms of flow. (Additional reporting by Dan Snierson)