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NBC TO SHIFT ‘TELEVISION PARTS’ IN SURVIVAL BID

Times Staff Writer

NBC plans to take Michael Nesmith’s low-rated, gently daffy “Television Parts” series off its schedule after next Friday. But NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff isn’t giving up on the show’s concept or the ex-Monkee who created it.

He says that NBC, hoping to give “Parts” a better showcase and a chance for survival in some form, will air a late-night version of the program on July 27 in the time period normally filled by “Saturday Night Live.”

The 90-minute special, he says, will consist of the best material from three unaired “Parts” programs, and possibly sketches that already have been aired on the series. NBC has broadcast the series on Fridays at 8 p.m. since June 14.

The half-hour series, hosted by Nesmith, features a wide assortment of separate, generally low-key, slightly surreal comedy segments.

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Among its offerings last Friday: what one might call a middle-aged music video in which Martin Mull and his wife essayed lounge-act singers, and Dick Cavett’s interview of an avant-garde German director famed for using sponges as symbols in his movies.

Nesmith, who first gained fame as a star of the musical series “The Monkees” in 1966, continued his singing career for many years but more recently has been involved in TV, movie and video production. The NBC series was inspired by his success with “Elephant Parts,” a “video album” of music videos and comedy sketches that won a Grammy Award in 1982.

Tartikoff conceded that “Television Parts,” which last week wound up at the bottom of the prime-time Nielsen ratings, was hard to categorize and thus to publicize. “My problem was that it was neither fish nor fowl,” he said in a brief interview Wednesday.

He said that he initially called the series “comedy video,” later regarded it as “a half hour of whimsy” and now is struggling with yet another description: “Conceptual video with a bent towards comedy.”

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The show’s premiere--a one-night test in May--was at 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday night after NBC’s “Cheers.” But the ratings weren’t good, Tartikoff said, so Nesmith’s series was scheduled for 8 p.m. Fridays. Low ratings persisted.

Disappointed but unbowed, Tartikoff said he hopes that the July 27 “Parts” special, possibly preceded by on-air promotion during breaks on such popular NBC series as “Miami Vice” and “Hill Street Blues,” will demonstrate that Nesmith’s concept still could work.

“It might be enough to see if there’s an audience appetite for this sort of thing,” he said. If the ratings indicate that, he added, “Parts” might continue in various forms--as a series, as a monthly offering or as several specials aired during a season.

No matter what happens, he said, he is confident that Nesmith and his brand of humor eventually will find a place in network television, “and I’d rather have him do it for us than for somebody else.”

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