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Teetering TV shows await fate 'on the bubble'

Tuesday, April 27, 1999

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

We know hits like "Spin City" and "ER" will be back next season. It's also pretty clear flops such as "The Brian Benben Show" and "Trinity" will not return.

    Choose to kill 'em or keep 'em

Remember the Post-Gazette's "Kill 'Em or Keep 'Em" TV poll? After a one-year hiatus, it's back and now housed on PG Online at http://www.post-gazette.com/tv/. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page and click to begin casting votes.

We want to know which shows you like, which shows you hate and a little bit of demographic information about who you are. (This won't be sold to a junk e-mailing list; it's just to figure out who's interested in which show.)

Obviously this is not a scientific study (please don't vote more than once), and it's not realistic, either. There's no way "The Secret Lives of Men" will be back. It's dead. Buried. A bad memory in the minds of ABC executives. But maybe you liked it, despite the critical drubbing and low ratings. Here's your chance to have your voice heard. It may not do any good in terms of a show's longevity, but at least you'll have spoken.

Votes will be tallied on the Web site until May 9, and the results will be published in my Thursday column in early May. Results also will be sent to the entertainment presidents of each of the six broadcast networks before they set their fall schedules in mid-May.


But there's an in-between ground that's not so clear. The shows whose fate could go one way, are considered "on the bubble."

"NewsRadio" is such a show. It begins a two-part season finale at 8:30 tonight on NBC. "NewsRadio" has always had weird season-enders (the staff goes into space, the staff on the Titanic, etc.), but this one sends the gang packing to a new locale -- New Hampshire.

Producers say if "NewsRadio" returns, the change in setting will reinvigorate the sitcom and distinguish it further from all the other shows based in New York City.

But will it return?

Lee Goldberg, executive producer of CBS's "Diagnosis Murder," has been in this spot before. And he's playing the waiting game again.

"It is very frustrating," Goldberg said. "You can't make long-range plans. You don't know whether you should be looking for a job or not."

"Diagnosis Murder" returns Thursday with a two-hour parody of the TV industry. If the show gets picked up for next season, Goldberg and his writing partner, William Rabkin, are moving on, but Goldberg still hopes "Murder" lives.

The key to survival? Ratings. Not just how many people are watching, but the demographic prized by advertisers: young viewers.

"Last year we barely got picked up because of our demos," Goldberg said. "This year our demos did improve, but it's still an old-skewing show."

The wait for Goldberg and other producers will end in a few weeks. NBC will announce its fall schedule May 17, ABC and The WB will reveal their line-ups May 18, CBS will pull away the curtain May 19, and Fox and UPN will announce their plans May 20.

Here's a network-by-network look at the shows on the bubble and expected cancellations:


"Brother's Keeper" -- With ABC re-thinking its TGIF strategy -- going more adult with "Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place" -- this show won't be a keeper.

"Two of a Kind" -- Again, the aging of TGIF and low ratings will probably knock this show out of its slot. Plus, there's a "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" spin-off on development. Warner Bros. produces the show, so The WB could add it to its lineup.

"Vengeance Unlimited" -- Despite the efforts of fans to get this show renewed, it hasn't aired in months. That's not a vote of confidence. ABC programmers might want to watch their backs after they cancel this one.

Goners: "The Big Moment," "Cupid," "Fantasy Island," "Home Improvement," "The Secret Lives of Men," "Strange World."


"Early Edition" -- This show has barely been renewed two years in a row. The third time may be a charm, but it's a long shot.

"Diagnosis Murder" -- Diagnosis: The crime-solving doc will be back as a mid-season replacement.

"LA Doctors" -- With David E. Kelley returning to active duty on "Chicago Hope" and Steven Bochco readying another hospital drama for mid-season, this turkey is likely to get lost in the shuffle.

"Promised Land" -- This family drama is unlikely to return.

"Sons of Thunder" -- The kids won't be standing as long as papa's "Walker, Texas Ranger" rules the range.

Goners: "The Brian Benben Show," "Buddy Faro," "Maggie Winters," "The Magnificent Seven," "The Nanny," "Payne," "To Have & To Hold," "Turks."


"The World's Funniest" -- A cheap show to produce, but it's not very funny. It will all depend on Fox's development and whether or not executives think another show could capture a bigger audience.

"Guinness World Records" -- After a strong start last fall, this show lost steam after moving to Friday. It's another cheap show, though, so it's got a chance. Possibly it will be a mid-season replacement.

"Millennium" -- Fox could spare this show if the ratings improve in the next few weeks, but since Chris Carter has his new series, "Harsh Realm," waiting in the wings, that seems unlikely.

Goners: "Brimstone," "Costello," "Getting Personal," "Holding the Baby," "Living in Captivity," "Melrose Place."


"Caroline in the City" -- Anyone else notice the promos for last night's one-hour "Caroline" touted it as a "finale" rather than a "season finale"? True, it could have said "series finale," but I still think this show's as good as gone.

"Everything's Relative" -- What, you haven't heard of this mid-season replacement? That's why it's won't be back in the fall.

"Homicide: Life on the Street" -- Tough call. The network has shown tremendous patience with this low-rated cop drama, but after six years of low ratings, they might just cut it loose.

"NewsRadio" -- Another perpetual on-the-bubble series, "NewsRadio" was saved last year only because NBC got a stake of the show. Possible for mid-season, but more likely to be canceled.

Goners: "Conrad Bloom," "Encore! Encore!," "Lateline," "Mad About You," "Trinity," "Wind on Water."


"America's Greatest Pets" -- Viewers love animals, but not enough to keep this show on the air.

"Love Boat: The Next Wave" -- At least people have heard of this UPN show, even if they haven't watched the new version of the early '80s classic. But that won't keep it from drowning in low ratings. Say buh-bye as "Love Boat" heads into dry dock.

"Redhanded" -- A reality show where people embarrass their friends and loved-ones. Seems like it would be more at home on basic cable. Don't expect UPN to pick it up.

"Home Movies" -- Many critics seem to like this animated show that premiered last night, and it's less expensive to produce than most animated series. Still too early in its run to call.

Goners: "DiResta," "Guys Like Us," "Legacy," "Mercy Point," "Reunited," "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer," "The Sentinel."

The WB

"Rescue 77" -- I never believed this show had much of a chance. It's simply a place-holder until the new family drama from "7th Heaven" creator Brenda Hampton is ready to air.

"Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane" -- Despite a hefty promotional campaign when this sitcom launched in January, it hasn't gotten the level of attention given to The WB's teen-skewing dramas. Unless there's research to show the trending up, it's likely down and out.

Goners: "The Army Show," "Hyperion Bay," "Unhappily Ever After."

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