So what if the Ewings may lose control of their oil company to the conniving Cliff Barnes while Jenna languishes in jail on "Dallas"? Who cares if sniveling Adam is trying to sabotage his way to the top of the Carrington empire while brother Steven bounces like a Ping-Pong ball between his ex-wife and his male lover on "Dynasty"?
Even as the prime-time season continues to unfold, the networks are about to decide the NEXT season that starts in September.
What will it bring?
We won't know for sure for another month, when, with great flourish, ABC, CBS and NBC unveil their fall schedules, purging themselves of the old, the weak and the unwatched and replacing them with the untried, untarnished and therefore promising.
But invariably most of these new series won't live up to the hype. Viewers will shake their heads: "Was that the best they could come up with?"
Now you can judge for yourself, as Calendar presents a rundown on all 72 pilots that the networks are considering for the fall schedule. These are the candidates in the running for a shot at prime time, the chance to be next season's "The Cosby Show"--or its "Glitter."
The selection process is very much akin to salmon swimming upstream in their annual mating ritual. Based on the pattern of the last four years, only about 25 of the pilots will give birth to a series. Of those, only six or seven will survive past the first year.
Yet the 72 pilots that are under consideration have, in a sense, already made it up river. Many more projects died in the attempt to jump up the waterfall.
Harvey Shephard, senior vice president in charge of programming for CBS, estimates that at his network alone, close to 1,000 series ideas were pitched for the coming fall season. Of those, about 150 got the approval of his development staff to be fashioned into scripts. Of those, the staff recommended about 50 that it felt were worthy of further consideration. Shephard then went over those and gave pilot orders to 19.
The total cost: $20-$25 million, Shephard says.
On the other hand, the series proposals that have made it this far are not as fortunate as a few other projects that were selected to spawn without having to make the dangerous trek up Pilot River. This is done infrequently, usually for a concept that has a presold identity with the audience, or for a producer or writer who has such a strong track record that the production commitment is a lure to get that person to work for the network.
These shows already have been guaranteed slots for next season:
"Dynasty II: The Colbys"--ABC will focus on the Colby family. John James, who plays Jeff, will move to the new show, with Emma Samms as Fallon, the woman in his life. Other characters may move permanently; the major "Dynasty" stars certainly will make guest appearances. The show won't debut in September but instead will be spun out of a new "Dynasty" story line a month or two later.
"The Twilight Zone"--CBS has asked Philip DeGuere, creator and executive producer of "Simon & Simon," to breathe new life into one of TV's classic shows. Each hourlong episode will contain up to three stories, some of them remakes from the original but most new. The first show done uses stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.
"Spielberg's Amazing Stories"--This half-hour anthology series is being produced for NBC by Steven Spielberg, who got his first directing job on "Night Gallery." It supposedly will have family appeal and feature a wide variety of stories, many from Amazing Stories magazine.
"Stingray"--Stephen J. Cannell, co-creator of "The A-Team" and "Riptide," has been given a 13-episode order by NBC for a series about a mysterious crime fighter (Nick Mancuso) who drives a supercharged Corvette. For his trouble, the hero asks only that the people he helps promise to do a favor for him in the future; he then cashes in on these favors to solve future cases.
"All Is Forgiven"--NBC has ordered 13 episodes of this comedy series from the creators of "Cheers." Bess Armstrong is a woman juggling the demands of a new job as producer of a TV soap opera and her home life, where she has just acquired a teen-age stepdaughter from her husband's first marriage.
"Golden Girls"--The creators and producers of "Soap," "Benson" and the new ABC series "Hail to the Chief" are producing a comedy for NBC about three women living out their retirement years in Miami. They share a home and have a gay houseman. Starring are Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan.
Several shows also have been given a green light for midseason:
"Dark Mansions"--ABC execs didn't want to launch two serials at once, so, with the "Dynasty" spinoff planned for the fall, this was put off a bit. Loretta Young, who hasn't appeared on a TV series in 24 years, will portray the mother of Linda Purl and Melissa Sue Anderson. The theme is centered around the fight between two brothers for control of their late father's shipping empire. This will feature aspects of the occult.
"Blacke's Magic"--Hal Linden portrays a magician who, when he isn't busy clashing with his father and ex-wife, uses his skills to solve crimes.
NBC plans to announce its fall schedule May 2. ABC is shooting for May 6 and CBS has targeted May 10 as its release date.
A handful of the pilots that don't make the September lineup will nonetheless be activated and put on the bench, to be brought in as needed during the season. (CBS did that this season with "Crazy Like a Fox," which looks certain to be renewed for another year.) Others may be sent back to the production company for reworking and recasting. Most, however, will quietly be played off during the summer and laid to rest.
What follows are each network's candidates for next season.
"Brothers in Law"--Mac Davis and Joe Cortese star as partners in a salvage business who used to be married to sisters. Action-adventure. Worth keeping an eye on for the simple reason that writer-producer Stephen J. Cannell has sold every pilot he's made since forming his production company in 1979--including "The A-Team," "Riptide" and "Hardcastle & McCormick."
"Spenser: For Hire"--Robert Urich is the Boston-based detective from the novels of Robert Parker. ABC says this would feature "harder action" than usual for such shows. Pilot written and produced by John Wilder, former producer of "Streets of San Francisco."
"Hollywood Beat"--"Miami Vice" moves west. Cop show from Aaron Spelling Productions about two officers (Jack Scalia, Jay Acovone) who deal with the weirdos, lowlifes and hustlers of Hollywood. (No, they are not assigned to the show-business beat. Don't be sarcastic!)
"Braker"--"Odd Couple" cops Carl Weathers (as a tough, experienced L.A. policeman) and newcomer (Joseph Bottoms) still sporting the polish of an East Coast prep school.
"Macgyver"--Action-adventure show about an adventurer (Richard Dean Anderson) willing to tackle seemingly impossible challenges.
"Northstar"--ABC, with unusual candor, calls this a 1985 version of "The $6 Million Man." Greg Evigan is an astronaut who, while on a space walk, was exposed to a solar explosion and acquired superhuman powers. Now he takes on special assignments for the government. Naturally.
"J.O.E. and Michael"--Another secret agent team. The gimmick is that Michael, a scientist, created J.O.E. from a test tube. J.O.E. was supposed to be the Army's ultimate fighting machine but Michael gave him a conscience to go with his super powers so he could judge right from wrong. Now they hire out as a team, to the government and private citizens.
"Triple Cross"--From the producers of "Call to Glory" comes a mystery series involving three former police officers (Ted Wass, Markie Post and Gary Swanson) who are now wealthy and get involved in crime-solving just for the fun of competing with one another. They make unusual bets to spur the competition.
"Shadow Chasers"--Who you gonna call? Kenneth Johnson, producer-director of the original "V" and "The Incredible Hulk," teams with Brian Grazer, the producer of "Splash," on a tongue-in-cheek look at supernatural phenomena. Needless to say, that includes ghosts. Trevor Eve plays a skeptical professor who investigates unusual cases with the assistance of Dennis Dugan as a tabloid newspaper reporter who is much more of a believer.
"Family Honor"--Not your typical family drama, this contrasts the lives of two conflicting clans: One a family with three generations of cops, the other involved in organized crime. Like the Montagues and Capulets of "Romeo and Juliet," their fates become entangled when a son from the organized crime family falls in love with a daughter from the cop family. Kenneth McMillan and Eli Wallach are the family patriarchs.
"Dark Horse"--Shades of "Miami Vice": Action show about a white reporter (Nick Campbell) and his black, street-smart assistant (Stoney Jackson), who investigate stories by going undercover. ABC is hoping for a "contemporary-looking, hot show," meaning "what the characters do is immaterial to how they do it."
"In Like Flynn"--Jenny Seagrove portrays a novelist who travels the world in search of adventures that she can incorporate into her books. But in a "Remington Steele"-like twist, she writes under a pseudonym and passes herself off as the fictitious author's editor and researcher.
"Generation"--A family drama set in the year 2000, which theoretically will allow the producers to tell traditional stories about relationships while also looking at what life might be like 15 years from now. Principals are three siblings: one brother who's a scientist, another a professional athlete who plays "combat hockey" and a sister who is a surgeon.
"Fifty-Five Lime Street"--Robert Wagner goes after yet another series success in an action-adventure show that will incorporate elements of his real life--namely, the problems of a widower raising two daughters. His character will be such a man who makes his living as an international insurance investigator. John Standing will co-star as his British partner and Lew Ayers will play his father. Wagner also is the executive producer.
"Lady Blue"--Call it "Dirty Harriet"--a female cop (Jamie Rose) who breaks the rules to see that justice is served. From the producer of "Police Woman." A movie airing Monday serves as the pilot.
"Embassy"--If the comings and goings at a simple San Francisco "Hotel" interest you, imagine the tourists, foreign dignitaries and political intrigue that pass through the U.S. Embassy in Rome. A movie airing next Sunday serves as the pilot.
"I Had Three Wives"--Detective show whose "eternally romantic" hero (Victor Garber) is frequently helped by his three ex-wives, who, conveniently, happen to be a reporter, a lawyer and an actress--with Shanna Reed, Teri Copley and Maggie Cooper. (CBS has already ordered six episodes to air late this summer.)
"Solomon's Universe"--Action-adventure about a think-tank researcher (Telly Savalas) who forms a high-tech "Mission: Impossible" team of experts recruited from the fields of science, medicine and other specialties to fight crime and social evils.
"On the Road"--Hoping to tap into some of the country's resurgent patriotism, this "fantasy adventure" (says CBS) stars Janet Leigh and Harry Guardino as a married couple who retire and explore the nation from a mobile home, getting involved with new people each week, like a rambling "Route 66."
"D5B: Steel Collar Man"--Dave Thomas (one of the Mackenzie Brothers from "SCTV") wrote the pilot for this sort-of action-adventure chase show about supercharged robot Charles Rocket, who runs away from his military creators and teams up with truck driver Hoyt Axton to avoid capture by vicious government agent Chuck Connors.
"Murphy's Law"--Described by CBS as a "risky new form" of programming, this series has Barry Newman as an assistant D.A. who, instead of being involved in a new case every week, would have each of his cases played out in miniseries style over four to six episodes, beginning with the crime and continuing through the trial.
"The Equalizer"--"The concept of this," says CBS, "is basically 'Dirty Harry' with a heart of gold." A tough action show starring Edward Woodward as an ex-government official who runs his own agency to help people for whom the traditional forms of achieving justice have been unsatisfactory.
"Dirty Work"--A young woman (Kerrie Keane) searching for the perfect 1980s' career goes to work for a "weird and supposedly dead private investigator" (Louis Giambalvo), handling "offbeat cases out of the Valley." Dorian Harewood is a policeman.
"Brass"--Carroll O'Connor returns to the tube, this time as New York City's chief of detectives. Ah, but he's no deskman and still gets involved in the toughest cases. Other characters: Boss Vincent Gardenia, sister Anita Gillette who is a nun and runs a shelter for the homeless, girlfriend Lois Nettleton and aide Begona Plaza.
"The Covenant"--NBC, which has yet to develop a successful nighttime soaper like "Dallas" and "Dynasty" (unless you count "Hill Street Blues"), tries again with gothic tales of a strange, powerful San Francisco family with Krystle and Alexis-type characters who happen to be sisters and are vying for control over the supernatural forces that reside in the clan. The sisters will be played by Jane Badler and Michelle Phillips.
"Champion"--Duncan Regehr, who portrayed Errol Flynn in the January TV biography, is another swashbuckler, a daring crime fighter who masquerades as an eccentric New York inventor of "semi-useless gadgets."
"Point Blank"--How do you adapt "Death Wish" to the tube without provoking more protests about vigilante justice? You have the hero work with the cops. And so it is that John Loughlin decides to track down the people who murdered his wife and son--and, along the way, other criminals who have escaped the wheels of justice--but only with the cooperation of police detective Robert Loggia, who presumably can move in to make the arrest.
"Misfits of Science"--Comical action-adventure show crosses "The A-Team" with Saturday morning's "Superfriends." The result: A team of trouble-shooters led by Dean Paul Martin who have super powers. One is an "electrically charged rock 'n' roller who throws lightning bolts," another is a guy who can freeze anything he touches, a third has telekinetic powers. And then there's the "7-foot-4 black scientist who can shrink himself down to 7 inches."
"Dalton"--Like "Highway to Heaven," this "highly stylized" project stars Charles Taylor as a mysterious stranger who travels the country using extraordinary powers to help people in trouble.
"Suburban Beat"--The creators of CBS' "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" have come up with a variation: Instead of one housewife caught up in battling bad guys, why not four? Dee Wallace, Shelley Fabares, Patty Austin and Heather Langenkamp are Miami homemakers whose involvement with a Neighborhood Watch detail leads to a little more action than the average PTA meeting.
"Private Sessions"--Mike Farrell is a psychiatrist dealing with personal problems of patients. The pilot aired as a movie March 18.
"Hell Town"--Robert Blake is an ex-con-turned-priest who fights to keep his parish free of crime. The pilot aired as a movie March 6.
"Nick Tattinger"--Producers of "St. Elsewhere" have concocted a story about a roguish New York restaurant owner who gets involved in the problems of his customers and employees and always manages to come up with a solution. His ex-wife and two children also would be regular characters. For midseason consideration.
"O.S.S."--World War II London is the setting for this "Winds of War"-type series, which proposes to mix the personal lives of the Office of Strategic Service agents with their spying and counterinsurgency work. For midseason consideration.
"Boston"--A tough legal show about a Boston-based assistant D.A. who has his own rough-and-tumble way of fighting for justice. For midseason consideration.
"Joanna"--Cindy Williams is attempting to strike gold again, but not as a '50s blue-collar worker in Milwaukee named Shirley (as in "Laverne & . . . "). This time she's a Pasadena-bred, college-educated woman who inadvertently winds up managing a trucking company in Brooklyn. ABC describes it as a gang comedy set around the workplace.
"Sam"--More life in the '80s. Loretta Swit is a single mom who must balance her personal life with her job at a publishing company. It is based loosely on characters taken from the novel "Megan's Book of Divorce" by Erica Jong, who would be involved as a creative consultant if the project goes to series.
"The Faculty"--After watching ABC's three-hour documentary about public education last fall, writer-producer Jay Tarses proposed a series about the problems faced by teachers today. ABC alleges that this is a "totally different show," funny but pointedly realistic. Some story lines would continue for several weeks. The cast includes Blair Brown, Allyn Ann McLerie, Albert Macklin and Max Wright.
"Full House"--The producers of "Diff'rent Strokes" have fashioned a show about a middle-class black couple trying to raise their children amid the constant bickering of two in-residence grandparents: his mother and her father, who come from opposite backgrounds. Lee Chamberlin and Paul Winfield are the grandparents; William Allen Young and Lisa Wilkinson portray the married offspring.
"Goodbye, Charlie"--Suzanne Somers spins this one off the 1964 movie starring Debbie Reynolds. Somers portrays a male chauvinist who dies and is reincarnated as a woman. John Davidson co-stars as his/her roommate.
"Growing Pains"--Hmmm. In what sounds like a white version of "The Cosby Show," a yuppie couple with three teen-aged kids deals with contemporary family problems. The mother has gone back to work after 15 years of child-raising; the father has moved his psychiatric practice to their home so he can keep an eye on the kids.
"Hearts of Steel"--Blue collars clash with white collars in a restaurant. After the factory shuts down, steel workers go to work at the eatery and find themselves catering to the sophisticated computer-age employees whose microchip company has taken over the steelworks.
"The Mayor"--Kevin Hooks is a young man who, in an effort to gain publicity and get off the unemployment rolls, decides to run for mayor . . . and unexpectedly wins.
"Mr. Sunshine"--A departure from the norm: Jeffrey Tambor is an English prof whose 15-year marriage broke up after he lost his sight--leaving him dispirited. The show focuses on how he copes with the new problems--blind, divorced and a single parent (with a 14-year-old son). Written by veteran David Lloyd.
"Moscow Bureau"--Lloyd also is writing this pilot, an ensemble show about U.S. reporters working in the Soviet Union, with William Windom, Caroline McWilliams and Dennis Drake.
"Emily"--Ellen Burstyn is a 52-year-old divorcee whose widowed daughter-in-law and grandchildren live with her. For midseason consideration.
"Just Plain Rich Folks"--Set around the transformation that occurs when an average middle-class family wins a lottery and becomes wealthy overnight. For midseason consideration.
"Melba"--Melba Moore stars as a divorced mother who works at the New York City Visitors and Convention Bureau and leaves her 10-year-old daughter in the care of her mother (Barbara Meek). The twist is that when Melba was a child, her mother worked as a domestic and helped raise the daughter of the house (Gracie Harrison), so that the two girls, though of different races, treat each other as sisters.
"Stir Crazy"--Based on the Gene Wilder-Richard Pryor movie, this hour series would take up where the film left off. Having been wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to a prison in Texas, two friends (Larry Riley and Joe Guzaldo) escape and then travel around the country trying to prove their innocence.
"Rockhopper"--Parker Stevenson is a New York bachelor who is known to friends and family as a mild-mannered bird watcher for the Flightless Bird Society--but in reality is a secret operative for a national security agency.
"George Burns' Comedy Week"--This comes from Steve Martin's production company, a comedy anthology series with Burns as host. The hope is to attract writers, directors and performers who wouldn't normally be available for a comedy series but would like to participate one week. Tim Matheson and Catherine O'Hara star in the pilot.
"Charlie & Co."--Flip Wilson and singer Gladys Knight play the middle-class parents of three children living on the south side of Chicago. He's an administrative assistant for the highway department, she's a teacher.
"Tough Cookies"--Robby Benson takes a shot at sitcom, playing a Chicago cop assigned to the neighborhood where he grew up.
"Royal Match"--Typical sitcom about newlyweds and their in-laws, except for one thing: She's an American graduate student, he's the king of a (fictional) country. Is the rest of the royal family thrilled by his love for a commoner? You must be kidding. John Moulder Brown and Haviland Morris are the lovebirds, supported by Tammy Grimes, Clive Revill and Ian Abercrombie.
"One Hogan Place"--Workplace comedy about a 30-year-old single woman (Pam Dawber) working as an assistant D.A. in New York. (CBS has already ordered six episodes to air late this summer.)
"The Recovery Room"--What if Sam's bar in "Cheers" were located across the street from a hospital? Welcome to "The Recovery Room," the name of just such an establishment in New York where doctors, nurses and administrators come to unwind.
"Love Long Distance"--Writer Sherry Coben, creator of CBS' "Kate & Allie," looks at the phenomenon of "commuter marriages." Here Tricia Pursley and Harley Venton live apart during the week because her job is in New York and his is in Philadelphia. The show focuses on their weekends and the strain of it all.
"Hometown"--Inspired by "The Big Chill," this focuses on the lives of seven people in their early 30s, friends since college, despite the different paths they've traveled. Some are married, others divorced with children, others still single. Jobs range from professor to short-order cook, from rock star to bookstore owner. Executive producer is Gene Reynolds, formerly of "MASH" and "Lou Grant." (CBS has already ordered six episodes to air late this summer.)
"Fathers & Sons"--Kids-oriented comedy about four boys, who are best friends, and their fathers, who aren't. Dads include Merlin Olsen and Rick Nelson, but the emphasis is on the kids.
"Fenster Hall"--From the folks who brought you "Punky Brewster" come tales about boys living in a center for abandoned children. T.K. Carter is the counselor and surrogate older brother, who just happens to have done much of his growing up there. Pilot aired as a "Punky Brewster" episode March 30.
"Handsome Harry"--If watching the patrons of a Boston bar works for "Cheers," why not a St. Louis barber shop?
"Heart's Island"--Set in the early 1950s, this otherwise is a routine sitcom premise about widow Dorothy Lyman struggling to make a living for herself and her two children by taking in sewing by day and waitressing at night. If that isn't enough to raise the hackles of her neighbors, Gary Sandy is also on the scene as a handyman who rents her garage.
"Looking for Love"--Yet another single mother with two kids. She runs a beauty shop in a small town, all the while keeping an eye out for Mr. Right. Lauren Tewes has the lead. With Vicki Lawrence.
"Close to Home"--Valerie Harper plays the mother of three teen-age sons. She's not single, though--her husband, an airline pilot, is just away most of the time.
"Cosby Show Spinoff"--The producers of "The Cosby Show" want to do a comedy that portrays Latinos in the same non-stereotyped way that "The Cosby Show" portrays blacks. To star Tony Orlando as the manager of a community center in New York who lives with his mother and has a big brother relationship with a Puerto Rican boy. The pilot, as yet untitled, will be done as a "Cosby Show" episode.
"No Complaints"--A comical study in contrast between the paths that women can take in the '80s. Diana Canova and Anne Twomey are lifelong friends, one an unmarried career woman, the other a full-time homemaker with two children.
"Apt. 227"--Marla Gibbs meddles in the lives and events of her ever-changing Chicago neighborhood. She would only do this show if CBS cancels "The Jeffersons"--which now seems likely in view of its low ratings.
"Off the Boat"--Lorne Michaels, the guiding force on the original "Saturday Night Live," will oversee this series about a group of immigrants trying to adapt to our country.
"That Was the Week That Was"--David Frost will try to revive the musical comedy satire series. He co-created the original BBC program in 1962 and hosted the U.S. version on NBC in 1964-65. The pilot is due to air as a special at 8 on April 21.
"Motown Review"--Smokey Robinson would host a weekly series packaged by Motown Productions, which did "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever."
"Our Time"--A music and comedy show aimed at "baby boomers" who are home on Saturday nights with nothing to watch. Would feature music from the '60s (Rick Nelson, the Coasters and Paul Revere and the Raiders are in the pilot) and "Laugh-In"-style sketches and cameos.