WJZ will carry it, but Salisbury station won't

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

The important news for Baltimore area viewers is that WJZ (Channel 13) will carry "NYPD Blue" tonight.

But the decision was not made without "intense debate" and lingering reservations, says General Manager Marcellus Alexander.

Alexander said he screened tonight's pilot for special interest groups and met with pickets from Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, which has targeted the show for a national boycott campaign.

Alexander added that he decided late last week to air the show only after he received assurances from ABC that future episodes would be less controversial and the guarantee that a viewer advisory would precede the show tonight.

"No issue in recent memory has drawn more opinion than 'NYPD Blue,' " Alexander said.

"It's generated more negative publicity than any show I can remember. . . . It was a tough call for us to air it."

Alexander's claim of soul-searching at Channel 13 is supported by the fact that his station is not included in ABC's ads for the show. Ads in TV Guide, for example, list only WJLA (Channel 7), the Washington affiliate, as carrying the show. And, under the regular listings for 10 tonight, it says only "to be announced" for Channel 13.

In all, about 25 of ABC's 200 affiliates will not air the show tonight, according to George Newi, ABC's affiliate chief.

The largest ABC affiliate to just say no to "NYPD" is WFAA in Dallas and Fort Worth, the nation's eighth largest market.

Among the smallest is WMDT (Channel 47) in Salisbury, the only Maryland station that has decided against showing "NYPD Blue."

"I won't show it until they clean it up," WMDT General Manager Frank Pilgrim said yesterday.

"I think they could have gotten away with the violence, because there's so much other violence on TV. But it's the nudity and language that got them. . . .

"This is a conservative market," Pilgrim added.

He said WMDT viewers will see episodes of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" at 10 on Tuesday nights in place of "NYPD."

"This show is not consistent with our company's program standards," WFAA General Manager Cathy Creany said.

"We screened three episodes and told ABC of our concerns with the profanity, nudity and violence."

WFAA is owned by Belo Broadcasting in Dallas. WVEC-TV, another Belo station in Norfolk, Va., has also decided not to carry "NYPD" tonight.

While network and affiliate executives declined to discuss advertising for "NYPD" on the record, several said that ABC is having trouble selling future episodes. While a big audience is expected tonight, the future is uncertain. Furthermore, some advertisers are wary of being associated with the controversy surrounding the show.

Tonight's pilot will carry a warning, but it will not mention the violence.

Viewers will be told that the show "contains adult language and partial nudity." As a result, "Viewer discretion is advised."

That's the same warning callers to ABC's viewer-advisory hot line (1 [800] 213-6222) will be given this week.

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