NBC, bracing for a run at first-place CBS next season, said Wednesday that it will put six new series in its fall lineup--including a new version of the Alfred Hitchcock series of yesteryear. But it axed the long-running "Diff'rent Strokes" and nine other series that had premiered on NBC during the current season.
NBC's new prime-time lineup will bring back Robert Blake, the hard-charging undercover cop of ABC's "Baretta" until that show's cancellation in 1978. Now he'll play a former convict-turned-priest in NBC's "Hell Town," set in the barrio of East Los Angeles.
Also on tap: two half-hour Sunday night anthology series, the new version of the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" mystery series, and "Amazing Stories," produced by Steven Spielberg, who last year got a commitment for 44 episodes from NBC.
The original Hitchcock series bounced between CBS and NBC from 1955 to 1966. The new version, NBC said, will consist of remakes of the original stories, and include the original whimsical introductions that Hitchcock filmed when alive. He died in 1980.
With major help from its hit "The Cosby Show," NBC ended this season in the No. 2 spot in prime-time ratings after 10 seasons in third place. The network said that the other new series on its fall schedule are:
--"The Golden Girls," starring Bea ("Maude") Arthur and Betty White in a comedy about four older women who live and play in Miami. The two others are played by Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty.
--"227," a comedy starring Marla Gibb as a good-hearted busybody who lives in an apartment building.
--"Misfits of Science," starring Dean Paul Martin, son of singer Dean Martin, as a young research scientist who turns nature's misfits into heroes.
A prime-time news series, anchored by Roger Mudd, also is on NBC's 1985-86 schedule, but will ease in gradually, starting with an hourlong program monthly from August through December. The as-yet-untitled program will begin airing on a weekly basis in January, NBC said.
The last weekly NBC News program to air in prime time during a regular season was the low-rated "First Camera," dropped by NBC in April, 1984, after less than a year's run.
"Diff'rent Strokes," starring Gary Coleman, had been on NBC for six seasons. His manager, Victor Perillo, emphatically denied Wednesday press reportsthat the teen-aged actor didn't want to return to the series.
He said a new contract for Coleman to continue with the comedy had just been negotiated with the show's producer, Embassy Television. "We were quite shocked" to learn that NBC had axed the series, he said, adding that negotiations now are under way with both CBS and ABC to continue the series.
Besides "Strokes," the other NBC casualties included "It's Your Move," the costly sci-fi flop "V," "Partners in Crime" and "Hot Pursuit." All made their debut last fall.
Six mid-season replacements that also failed and won't be back are the comedies "Sara," "Double Trouble" and "Under One Roof;" the high school drama "The Best Times," and two action-adventure series, "Code Name: Foxfire" and "Half Nelson."
The new schedule was to have been announced to advertisers and reporters in New York today by NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff. But after the Associated Press and USA Today got draft copies of the schedule, the network decided to release it Wednesday.
Despite NBC's program cancellations, its fall schedule showed signs of the network's emerging schedule stability after years of turbulence.
Although still subject to change after CBS and ABC announce their lineups for 1985-86, NBC's fall roster makes no changes in its Monday, Tuesday and Thursday night lineups, and all of its series in the 10 p.m. time period are returning next fall.
ABC, which ended this season in third place in prime-time ratings, is scheduled to announce its fall lineup on Monday. CBS, the ratings leader for six straight seasons, will make public its new schedule on May 9 or 10, a network spokesman said.
Following is NBC's new prime-time fall schedule:
--Monday: "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes" and "Monday Night Movie."
--Tuesday: "The A-Team," "Riptide" and "Remington Steele."
--Wednesday: "Highway to Heaven," "Hell Town" (new) and "St. Elsewhere."
--Thursday: "The Cosby Show," "Family Ties," "Cheers," "Night Court" and "Hill Street Blues."
--Friday: "Knight Rider," "Misfits of Science" (new) and "Miami Vice."
--Saturday: "Gimme a Break," "Facts of Life," "The Golden Girls" (new), "227" (new) and "Hunter."
--Sunday: "Punky Brewster," "Silver Spoons," "Amazing Stories" (new), "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (new) and "Sunday Night Movie."