ABC gets out of the 'reality' business

July 15, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

LOS ANGELES -- While NBC wades deeper into the muddy waters of "reality" programming with its commitment to shows like the controversial "I Witness Video" this fall, ABC is getting out of the reality business altogether for a while.

"Quite frankly, when you look at the standard reality shows, there are too many of them on television," Bob Iger, the president of ABC Entertainment, said yesterday.

Iger was explaining ABC's decision to pull its two reality shows, "American Detective" and "FBI: The Untold Stories" from the fall schedule and reduce them to backup status. They have been placed so far on the back burner at ABC that Iger failed even to mention them when he listed the network's "sophomore" shows that would be returning in a press conference that was part of the fall preview press tour.

There will still be a dozen or so reality shows on network TV, because NBC and Fox are so heavily committed to the genre. One reason for ABC's decision to go against the grain of the cheaply produced tabloid-like shows may be that it has the best of the network news divisions and can get ratings with prime-time shows like "20/20" and "PrimeTime Live," which are produced by ABC News and generally hew to the division's high standards.

The session with Iger yesterday was generally low-key. He said that viewers will be seeing less of "The Wonder Years" this year and suggested that there is a very good chance this will be the show's last season. ABC ordered only 13 episodes of "The Wonder Years," while the standard order for a successful series is 22 episodes.

"The pickup of only 13 shows is an indication of our perception that audience interest in the 'Wonder Years' is on the wane," Iger said.

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