Who says they don't make quality television shows anymore? Voting members of Viewers for Quality Television, a national advocacy group, have found seven new series worthy of consideration for endorsement this season.
In the latest VQT survey, taken last month, respondents nominated these new shows onto the organization's Tentative Support List: "Evening Shade" (CBS), "Gabriel's Fire" (ABC), "Law & Order" (NBC), "Lifestories" (NBC), "Northern Exposure" (an expected NBC mid-season replacement), "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill" (CBS) and "WIOU" (CBS).
The semi-annual balloting for the Virginia-based group also asked for separate ratings for quality of shows and frequency of viewing. "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill," a Monday show with Sharon Gless as a public defender, ranked the best of the new fall series, as the third most-watched show among VQT members and sixth on the quality scale.
Another new show which ranked well was "Gabriel's Fire," Thursday show starring James Earl Jones as a former cop and convict. It rated as 12th most-watched and 10th in quality among VQT voters.
Unfortunately, this show also illustrates the challenge a group such as VQT faces in becoming a meaningful alternative voice to the Nielsen ratings system. And it also is an example of the counterproductive strategies of network counterprogramming.
In the cumulative Nielsens so far this season (from the most recent edition of Electronic Media magazine), "Gabriel's Fire" ranks in 65th place. Why? In part, it has to be its time slot of 9 p.m. Thursdays, opposite NBC's "Cheers," currently in first place in the fall ratings.
Here's hoping ABC thinks about quality and reschedules the show where more people might find it.
By contrast, the season's biggest Nielsen winner, "America's Funniest People" (ABC, currently in 11th place for the season) ranked at the bottom of the VQT voting.
OFF THE BROADCAST BEAMS:
* A production team from NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries" was in Maryland over the weekend, taping (for future airing) material about a Gaithersburg murder case. The suspect involved is one William Bradford Bishop Jr., a former U.S. State Department employee accused of murdering his mother, wife and three sons in March of 1976.
* "The Jesse Jackson Show" began airing here over the weekend on WMAR-Channel 2. The time slot for the hour-long weekly talk show is at midnight Sundays. Channel 2 had not aired the show this fall because Jackson was a candidate in the Washington elections, and airing his show during the campaign could have raised questions about fairness and equal time.