The latest news from the TV beat

By Lynette Rice
Updated March 02, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
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‘Dharma’ Chameleon

Earth to Dharma: Your shtick may be wearing thin with the suits at ABC. During a recent meeting for Disney investors, a top exec said ABC will take a hard look at how much it’s willing to fork over for the renewal of the four-year-old sitcom Dharma & Greg, whose contract is set to expire next season. The net may have a point in questioning the show’s growth: The Tuesday-night comedy has struggled in second place this season behind the powerful Daphne-and-Niles plot on Frasier. As a quick fix, ABC has asked for weightier story lines for Dharma (that’s why we saw star Jenna Elfman locking lips with guest star Kevin Sorbo last week), but event-izing a show that became a hit with light and kooky comedy might not be the solution. One source close to the show suggests more on-air promos might be the answer; after all, those previews featuring a cheatin’ Dharma ultimately gave the show its best performance this year in the 18-49 demographic. ”When ABC got behind [the special episode] it almost beat Frasier,” says the source. ”The network can drive viewers back to Dharma.” Perhaps a crossover with Temptation Island is in order.

Staying ‘Tooned

The prime-time animated comedy trend should have died with God, the Devil and Bob, but that hasn’t stopped Fox and The WB from attempting to squeeze more out of this risky genre. Fox has two animated half hours in development for fall: a family show dubbed Monkeys, about a large Irish clan, and another called Green Army Men, which combines animation and live action. Meanwhile, The WB — which plans to return Baby Blues to the air this fall — will premiere The Oblongs, about a family of mutants, this April. It’s also working on two foamation comedies from the animators behind The PJs. One’s a buddy comedy about cats that interact with people, and another’s a Dumb and Dumber-inspired half hour about a pair of dim-witted brothers who mow lawns for a living. The WB would even like to order more episodes of The PJs, but it’s too costly to produce. ”Animation allows for very expressive and free-form comedy. You’re not constrained by the production realities of live action,” says WB copresident Jordan Levin. ”The newness of animation hasn’t worn off, if you can execute it well and it’s embraced by an audience.” In TV land, though, that’s a big ”if.”

Love on the Run

It’s the golden rule of series TV: When in doubt, add more sex. In an effort to juice up CBS’ struggling drama The Fugitive, producers are letting Dr. Richard Kimble (Tim Daly) stay put for several episodes while he hooks up with an attractive widow (Stacy Edwards) whose husband and child were murdered. ”She’s providing something that his soul really requires,” says executive producer John McNamara. Any change in the show’s composition is welcome: After its first two weeks in a new 9 p.m. time slot, The Fugitive (8.9 million viewers) has yet to attract the kind of audience that CSI (14.8 million) did before moving to Thursdays. In fact, producers are making other subtle changes to Daly’s Dr. Kimble, like dropping his mopey victim routine, to make him more relatable to skeptical viewers. ”At the beginning, the show got an incredible amount of buzz” due to the series’ time-tested brand name, says McNamara, adding that once viewers tuned in they were underwhelmed by deja vu. ”There was probably a level of ‘Oh, I saw the movie, I’ve heard of the series — prove to me this is different and it’s better.”’

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Dharma & Greg

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