NBC announced its 1996-1997 season lineup yesterday, and the big winner was Fox's "The X-Files."
For if imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery, Fox's hourlong drama about the search for aliens and other government secrets must be blushing several shades of red. NBC's announcement, made yesterday in New York, included three new drama series, all scheduled to air Saturday nights and all clearly reflecting the otherworldly, secretive influence of "The X-Files."
The big loser? That could end up being ABC, which has lost "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" to its network rival. The last time something similar happened, ABC passed on "3rd Rock From the Sun," which has become a certified hit on NBC.
Or the big loser could be the network's own "Caroline In the City," which is being yanked from the Thursday-night time slot where it had become a Top-10 hit and moved to Tuesday, where it won't have "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "ER" to lean on for support.
The new schedule included few surprises, befitting a network secure with its No. 1 ranking. Seven new shows were announced, including four comedies.
Network honchos hope the all-new Saturday lineup will pull viewers away from the family-oriented dramas CBS plays there ("Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," "Touched By An Angel" and "Walker, Texas Ranger").
The new "Dark Skies" asks viewers to believe events of the past two generations -- the Kennedy assassinations, AIDS, etc. -- are part of an alien invasion strategy. It stars Eric Close, Megan Ward and J. T. Walsh; the opening two-hour pilot was directed by Tobe Hooper ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Poltergeist").
"The Pretender" features Michael T. Weiss as a super-genius who can pretty much do everything -- except shake the bad guys from a secretive research organization stalking him.
And "Profiler" has Ally Walker as a former FBI operative who can look at a crime scene and uncover amazing details about the people involved.
Sunday will kick off with "Dateline NBC" at 7 p.m., followed by "3rd Rock From the Sun" and "Boston Common" and ending with "The NBC Sunday Night Movie."
Monday will feature the transplanted "Jeff Foxworthy Show" at 8 p.m., with Foxworthy as a Southern redneck transplanted to the Midwest; and "Mr. Rhodes," from the same production team as "Cybill" and "3rd Rock From the Sun," at 8: 30 p.m., with Tom
Rhodes as an unconventional teacher. The evening concludes with the return of "The NBC Monday Night Movie."
The Tuesday comedy lineup is also changing, with only "Frasier" returning in its same time slot, at 9 p.m. (no doubt as thanks for it having successfully taken on the ratings monolith of "Home Improvement" when it was moved to Tuesdays in September). Joining the family Crane on Tuesdays will be "Mad About You" at 8 p.m.; "Something So Right" at 8: 30 p.m., with Mel Harris and Jere Burns as Manhattan newlyweds presiding over a brood of three, and "Caroline In the City" at 9: 30 p.m.
Wednesdays will now kick off with "Wings" at 8 p.m., followed by "The John Larroquette Show" and "NewsRadio." "Men Behaving Badly," starring Rob Schneider and Ron Eldard as a pair of two very politically incorrect single guys, follows at 9: 30 p.m., with "Law and Order" bringing up the rear.
"Suddenly Susan," a new comedy starring Brooke Shields, landed the coveted 9: 30 p.m. Thursday spot following "Friends," "The Single Guy and "Seinfeld" and preceding "ER."
Friday's lineup will remain untouched, with "Unsolved Mysteries," Dateline NBC" and "Homicide: Life on the Street."
NBC shows not picked up for next season include "Jag," "Hope & Gloria" (moving to Lifetime or WB), "In the House" (moving to UPN), "Brotherly Love" (moving to WB), "The Home Court" and "Malibu Shores." As announced earlier, both "Sisters" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" are leaving the network after long runs. The "Sisters" finale aired earlier this month, while "Fresh Prince" airs its series-ender next week.
Pub Date: 5/14/96