ABC dumps 'thirtysomething' from fall schedule

May 22, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

The chief programmer at ABC called "thirtysomething" the "highest quality drama ever on network television," but that didn't stop him from canceling it yesterday as he announced the network's fall schedule.

After next week's episode, "thirtysomething" will be history -- along with "Twin Peaks," "China Beach," "Father Dowling," "Equal Justice," "Married People," "Davis Rules," "Going Places," Eddie Dodd," "Gabriel's Fire," "STAT," "Undercover" and "My Life and Times." Remaining episodes from some of the shows -- such as "China Beach" -- will air this summer.

Robert Iger, the president of ABC Entertainment, offered no real explanation for the "thirtysomething" decision. He issued a lengthy statement, which said such things as: "We've seen the show rise above our medium to become part of our culture. It saddens us to present a schedule without it. . . . But it was time to move forward."

Ratings alone were not the reason it was time to move. On the Nielsen front, "thirtysomething's" ratings were not great -- last week it ranked 51st out of 87 shows -- but they were good enough to keep it on the air. In Baltimore, it was delivering a weekly audience of about 130,000 TV homes. That was up from its first year, 1987, when it was watched in about 112,000 homes. Nationally, it was 26th among women 18 to 49 years old, a key demographic group.

But the word in the industry was that Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, the creators of the show, did not plan to return next year in order to make feature films. That's the likely reason for the cancellation: ABC did not think it would be the same show without both men actively involved.

Almost lost in the heavy timber that toppled yesterday were the new stars and shows that ABC will introduce next fall. They include:

* "Homefront," an ensemble drama set in Smalltown, America, circa 1945.

* "Grownups," produced by Jim Brooks (one of the creative forces behind "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the producer-director "Broadcast News" and "Terms of Endearment"), is a comedy centering on the lives and loves of three sisters. Marsha Mason and Jamie Gertz star; the third sister has not been cast.

* "Good and Evil" is also a comedy about sisters. One is good; one evil. Teri Garr and Margaret Whitten star.

* "Home Improvement," starring Tim Allen, is a comedy about a television personality who is Mr. Fixit on TV, but a klutz at home.

* "Bird and Katt" reimagines James Earl Jones' Gabriel Bird from "Gabriel's Fire" as a Chicago private investigator teamed up with Richard Crenna.

* "FBI: The Untold Stories" is a "reality" series about FBI cases.

* "Step by Step" is a family series starring Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers and a bunch of kids.

* "The Commish" is a cop show featuring Michael Chiklis as a big-city chief of police.

ABC fall schedule

(New series in bold face; * indicates new time period.)

SUNDAY

7 p.m.: "Life Goes On"

8 p.m.: "America's Funniest Home Videos"

8:30 p.m.: "America's Funniest People"

9 p.m.: "Sunday Night Movie"

MONDAY

8 p.m.: "MacGyver"

9 p.m.: Monday Night Football

TUESDAY

8 p.m.: "Full House"*

8:30 p.m.: "Home Improvement"

9 p.m.: "Roseanne"

9:30 p.m.: "Coach"

10 p.m.: "Homefront"

WEDNESDAY

8 p.m.: "Dinosaurs"*

8:30 p.m.: "The Wonder Years"*

9 p.m.: "Doogie Howser, M.D."

9:30 p.m.: "Anything But Love"

10 p.m.: "Grownups"

10:30 p.m.: "Good and Evil"

THURSDAY

8 p.m.: "Bird and Katt"

9 p.m.: "FBI: The Untold Stories"

9:30 p.m.: "American Detective"

10 p.m.: "PrimeTime Live"

FRIDAY

8 p.m.: "Family Matters"*

8:30 p.m.: "Step By Step"

9 p.m.: "Perfect Strangers"

9:30 p.m.: "Baby Talk"

10 p.m.: "20/20"

SATURDAY

8 p.m.: "Who's the Boss?"*

8:30 p.m.: "Growing Pains"*

9 p.m.: "The Young Riders"*

10 p.m.: "The Commish"

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