Readers rate 'Rosie O'Neill' as best new TV show of the '90-'91 season


April 13, 1991|By Steve McKerrow

It's "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill" (CBS) going away, with "Gabriel's Fire" (ABC) and "Law & Order" (NBC) in almost a dead heat for the place position, while "The Simpsons" (Fox) trails distantly.

Yes, fans, those are the results of the ratings race for best new shows of the 1990-'91 season -- at least, as they are measured for each network by this column's readers.

We asked: What new shows last fall (or the previous spring) are worth saving?

Your answers clearly make "Rosie O'Neill" the most popular new series of the season. (We received about 75 responses, including letters from Portland, Ore., and suburban New Jersey, where newspapers apparently carried the original column, and several which claimed to be the votes of whole clumps of viewers.)

Actress Sharon Gless' sensitive portrayal of a stressed-out defense attorney in mid-life turmoil drew three times as many votes as any other show.

Indeed, although we asked readers to vote for one series worth saving on each network, many people wrote just to plead that "Rosie" be saved by CBS.

The network has shown apparent disdain for the quality program by a premature suspension of its Monday-at-10 airing. CBS program chief Jeff Sagansky has said recently the show will return, but a network spokeswoman this week said, "probably not until the fall."

"I would like to be the forelady of the jury at the 'Trials of Rosie O'Neill.' We would find the programmers guilty of gross stupidity, negligence of performance and dereliction of their duties to the public," wrote Elinor J. Hall of Baltimore, in a particularly impassioned criticism of CBS.

"Programmers are for the most part white males. They need to know that there are women who appreciate the kind of work Ms. Gless is doing -- it is such a rare treat," echoed D. Joyce Reynolds of Baltimore.

Two other quality dramas, NBC's "Law & Order" (now on hiatus from Tuesday-at-10) and ABC's "Gabriel's Fire" (Wednesday-at-10, with James Earl Jones), were separated by only one vote. The edge went to the NBC show, in which Michael Moriarty is a prosecutor who takes police cases developed in the first half of the show into court in the final half-hour.

"Television has so many bad and mediocre actors it should make every effort to retain the few who have real talent," wrote Martin Blackwell of Baltimore, in mentioning all three of the dramas that led the voting of this informal poll.

Curiously, situation comedies received relatively less support from readers, with a few exceptions. (Stay tuned for readers' Top 10 newcomers of the season, below.)

CBS' "Evening Shade" (Monday-at-8 with Burt Reynolds and Marilu Henner) trailed "Gabriel's Fire" by just one vote (if you count the reader who enthusiastically voted for the show as the best new thing on the air, but called it "Night Shade").

The newly returned "Northern Exposure" on CBS (now Monday-at-10) and "Seinfeld" on NBC (Thursday-at-9:30) -- both shows had spring tryouts last year -- seem to have many fans. And a number of correspondents also suggested NBC rethink its surprisingly early cancellation of "Working It Out" (with Jane Curtin).

The Fox network has little to cheer about in the views of readers, as the Nielsen ratings have confirmed on a nationwide scale. In fact, we stretched the rules a bit even to count "The Simpsons" as a new-season show, for it received the most votes (four) cast for any Fox shows. (The show began as a regular series early in 1990.)

The next most votes for a Fox series (just two) went to "Beverly Hills 90210" (Thursday-at-10).

Proving that TV tastes are varied, however, a total of 28 new shows from the disappointing fall season did get at least one vote. By network, readers mentioned 10 shows on NBC, seven on CBS, six on ABC and five on Fox.

We also got one vote (tongue-in-cheek, we assume), for "The Mary Pat Clarke Show" -- in other words, the Baltimore City Council, as televised weekly on the local United Artists Cable system.

For the record, here are the Top 10 new shows as ranked by readers:

1. "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill"

2. "Law & Order"

3. "Gabriel's Fire"

4. "Evening Shade"

5. "Northern Exposure"

6. "Working It Out"

7. "Twin Peaks" (ABC, a starter last spring)

8. "Shannon's Deal" (CBS)

9. "Seinfeld"

10. "The Simpsons"

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