ABC, which has become the last-place network in prime time, is starting to clean house early.
Instead of waiting for the announcement of its fall schedule in May when such moves are traditionally made, ABC yesterday said that three long-running shows will not return next season and will disappear before this season even ends.
"Growing Pains," "Who's the Boss?" and 'MacGyver" will all have final, one-hour episodes airing back-to-back-to-back from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on April 25.
"We're doing it this way because we wanted to provide closure to each of the shows," said Jeff DeRome, a network spokesman. "The shows have been on for a long time. . . . 'Who's the Boss?' will have aired 199 episodes by the end of the year."
"Growing Pains," which stars Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns as Jason and Maggie Seaver, is in its seventh season. It was a Top 10 show from 1986 through 1988 with an average audience of about 22 million TV households nationally and 200,000 in the Baltimore area each week. Its largest audience was teen viewers -- one out of every two watching television when it aired was tuned to the show.
But it fell victim to the aging of Kirk Cameron, who outgrew his teen heartthrob appeal as oldest son Mike Seaver. The only time the show made news this year was when Tracey Gold, who played teen-daughter Carol, resigned and acknowledged that she was anorexic.
"Who's the Boss?" is in its eighth season. It stars Judith Light as advertising executive Angela Bowers and Tony Danza as Tony Micelli, Bowers' live-in housekeeper. The sitcom also was a Top 10 hit with good demographics in the late 1980s, both nationally and in Baltimore. The bulk of its audience was teens and men and women 18 to 34 years of age. The series flirted with important issues of gender roles and class distinctions but never challenged the status quo.
In recent years, the producers tried to spark audience interest with the possibility of a serious romance between Tony and Angela. But it didn't work, and the ratings tailed off.
"MacGyver," with Richard Dean Anderson, spent seven seasons as the warm-up for ABC's "Monday Night Football."
In addition to these three shows, ABC has already axed "Anything But Love," "The Young Riders" and "Pros and Cons," while announcing that it has purchased "Matlock" with Andy Griffith from NBC.