Try it, you'll like it Arguing the case: Producer Steven Bochco suggests new viewers to 'Murder One' will be able to catch on quickly.

January 12, 1996|By David Kronke | David Kronke,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PASADENA, Calif. -- Watching "Murder One," ABC's critically acclaimed, but audience-impaired drama is "not rocket science," insisted Steven Bochco, the series' creator, during a press conference at the Television Critics Association winter meeting yesterday.

Mr. Bochco defended the series, which examines one murder trial in serial form over the course of its run, against charges that potential viewers fear the show is too complicated and that too much has already happened.

"People are worried that they may not understand every reference, but they don't need to to follow the storyline," said Mr. Bochco. "If they watch a couple of episodes, they'll be up-to-speed. It's not that significant a problem. The problem is the perception, and I don't know what to do about that."

The series was withdrawn in November after getting trounced in the Thursday ratings by NBC's "ER," the most popular show on TV. "Murder One," which returned Monday with a three-minute recap of the previous eight episodes, finished third in its time period.

An hour-long recap episode had been considered, but both Mr. Bochco and ABC Entertainment President Ted Harbert decided against it.

"This is not 16th-century art history -- we didn't need an hour-long recap," said Mr. Harbert. "It's frustrating to me, since the perception is different from the reality. The trial will start soon, and the testimony totally recaps what has happened. We spent a lot of time and money to tell people it's never too late. Now we have to hope for good word-of-mouth. But if that perception persists, we're gonna have a real problem."

Mr. Harbert didn't say he absolutely would not cancel the series before its natural conclusion if ratings didn't improve, but admitted, "even if the ratings get worse, there are still plenty of fans out there and it would be a tough thing not to let them know how the show ends."

Mr. Bochco said subplots worked into earlier episodes had been jettisoned in the new episodes. "The B stories didn't work for me," he said.

Three different conclusions will be shot to keep someone from leaking the surprise ending.

In other news from ABC, Mr. Harbert confirmed that the network would be adding "Politically Incorrect" to its latenight lineup. The caustic talk series, with comedian Bill Maher, will run week nights following "Nightline" beginning in January 1997. The show is currently one of the most popular offerings on the cable network Comedy Central.

As a result of ABC's merger with Disney, one of its movies will be added to next fall's schedule, at 8 p.m. Saturdays, he said

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