ANALYSIS: Media Watch - The media's a bit cool towards this comingfall's TV lineup

The networks have been knee deep in "up-front" presentations this

past few weeks. The up-front is an event where the networks show

advertisers and the media how the new season will look come September.

And every year the media turns its attention toward the quality of the

picks and tries to predict which TV shows will work.



Reporters most often conveyed surprise at NBC's decision to make The

Weakest Link its strongest show. The network is upping the number of

nights the show will air come September. Some contrasted this with ABC's

move to reduce the number of episodes of its own quiz show Millionaire -

turns out younger audiences didn't really care who wanted to be a

millionaire.



ABC insists that the Millionaire monopoly on airtime was not a

mistake.



"(Leaning on the quiz show this past season) allowed us the luxury to

develop the shows we're bringing on," said ABC co-chairman Lloyd Braun

(The Wall Street Journal, May 16).



NBC seems to be sticking with a tried-and-true formula for success with

shows like Friends, ER, and Law & Order. "NBC figures we can never have

our fill of docs and cops," wrote the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (May

15), pointing out that Dick Wolf's Law & Order franchise will account

for 30% of all NBC dramas in the fall. But NBC has had a very tough year

with new shows. Few NBC sitcoms are coming back next fall. Only Ed made

the cut for the fall lineup. "I think NBC needs either Criminal Intent

(a Law & Order spin-off) or Crossing Jordan to work if they expect to

improve over this season's performance," said Steve Sternberg of True

North Communications (The Wall Street Journal, May 15).



While NBC is sticking with drama, the WB is breaking new ground with

sitcoms and reality shows next fall. Most media noted this as a major

departure from the usual WB lineup, which has been geared towards

teenage girls with shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is moving

to UPN next fall, and Dawson's Creek. Some questioned if WB viewers will

consider the trade of Buffy for family-oriented sitcoms a fair one.



All the shuffling of shows and time-slots doesn't change the overarching

opinion of the media that network TV stinks these days. Talent is

stretched thin, as network shows compete with cable hits like HBO's The

Sopranos and Sex and the City, which don't have to answer to

advertisers.



Network executives have tried to bring back "edge" to their shows

through reality TV. "The reality cycle remains on the upswing and there

will certainly be more of these shows in 2001-2002 than in any previous

season," predicted Hollywood Reporter critic Barry Garron (The Baltimore

Sun, May 14).



NBC hopes to make a survivor out of Emeril, a new sitcom starring the

famous Food Channel chef Emeril Lagasse. But journalists are leery of

star-driven vehicles, pointing out CBS' Bette as one of last year's

bigger losers. "Emeril's creators, longtime Bill Clinton image-makers

Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, may be a little rusty by

now. They haven't landed a network series since CBS dropped Hearts Afire

in 1995." (Dallas Morning News, May 15). Even NBC Entertainment

president Jeff Zucker acknowledged that the show is a leap of faith:

"We're rolling the dice a little bit ... It's different and

unconventional." (Plain Dealer, May 15).



From the look of media reports, the fall lineup is going to be more of

the same - don't expect another Seinfeld. Makes one wonder if that

satellite dish isn't such a bad idea after all.



- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be

found at www.carma.com.



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