CBS schedulers aim fall shows at middle-agers

May 21, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

CBS says it's sticking with its winning strategy of broadcasting instead of niche-casting. But, based on the

fortysomething look of the fall schedule it announced yesterday, CBS is heading deeper into Baby-Boomer-Land, with four of eight new series featuring middle-aged characters.

There's a secondary theme to the new fall schedule, too: the western. CBS is so thrilled with the success of Jane Seymour's "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," that it's going to make Saturday night wall-to-wall westerns.

CBS President Jeff Sagansky stressed the star-appeal of his new lineup yesterday, saying, "Our program dominance this past season has prepared the way for our strongest schedule yet, headlined by an unprecedented roster of stars."

And CBS will have more big names than anyone else come fall. In addition to the likes of Candice Bergen, Markie Post, Burt Reynolds and Angela Lansbury, the network picked up Chuck Norris' tryout series "Walker, Texas Ranger" and Shelley Long's tryout "Good Advice." Furthermore, it added series with Faye Dunaway, Robert Urich, Glenn Frey, Beau Bridges, Harry Anderson and Bronson Pinchot. Virtually all the appeal of those performers is with viewers of the baby-boomer age or older. There's nothing for viewers under 30.

Even the close calls on renewal-or-cancellation went to the older crowd: "Picket Fences" and "In the Heat of the Night" both were renewed. CBS did get rid of some shows with older talent and older appeal: It canceled "Bob," starring Bob Newhart, "Golden Palace" and "Major Dad." None was a big surprise, though the cancellation of "Bob" after just one season is the first real failure for Newhart, who has had three straight long-running hit series.

CBS also left the reality show "Top Cops" and Ed Bradley's "Street Stories" off the schedule, but both will be used as backups, according to Sagansky.

In fact, "Street Stories" will return this summer with new episodes. It will be part of the fresh summer fare that will include "Eye to Eye With Connie Chung" and a new western, "Ned Blessing," starring Brad Johnson. Chung's newsmagazine will stay on the schedule in the fall. "Ned Blessing" will be demoted to backup duty in September.

Also, on tap as a midseason replacement is "Tom," a blue-collar comedy starring Tom Arnold whose sitcom, "The Jackie Thomas Show"was dropped by ABC last week.

Here are CBS' new shows:

* "Dave's World" stars Harry Anderson as "a child of the '60s trying to survive in the '90s," in Sagansky's words. It's based on humorist Dave Barry's syndicated columns.

* "Harts of the West" stars Beau Bridges and Lloyd Bridges in a comedy about a 41-year-old big city lingerie salesman whose recent heart attack convinces him it's time to take a chance on his lifelong dream of being a cowboy. It sounds much like a TV version of "City Slickers," with Lloyd Bridges in the Jack Palance role.

* "South of Sunset" stars former Eagles band member Glenn Frey in an action/drama about a middle-aged Los Angeles detective who loses his job and starts a new life as a private eye.

* "Angel Falls" is a drama about a single mother who returns to herhome town after a long absence, searching for a more peaceful environment for herself and her son.

* "It Had to be You," with Faye Dunaway and Robert Urich, is about a love affair between opposites who attract. Dunaway is a Boston socialite and newspaper publisher; Urich a carpenter.

* "The Trouble With Larry" stars Bronson Pinchot and Courtney Cox in a comedy about an adventurer, missing and presumed dead for 13 years, who resurfaces and moves in with his former wife and her new family.

* "Family Album" is about a family that, for better or for worse, has reunited in Philadelphia. Peter Scolari, of "Newhart," plays the father.

* "The Nanny" stars Fran Drescher as nanny to the family of a widowed Broadway producer.

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