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‘ALMANAC’ RETURNING IN JUNE AS ‘1986'

Times Staff Writer

NBC’s latest attempt at a prime-time news magazine, formerly called “American Almanac” but now retooled and retitled as “1986,” will premiere June 10 and also will be given a slot in the network’s fall schedule.

That’s the word from an NBC News spokesman, who says that “1986,” produced in Washington, will be co-anchored by Roger Mudd--formerly the sole anchor of “Almanac"--and Connie Chung.

Chung on Friday signed a new contract with NBC, ending weeks of speculation that she might return to CBS News, where she first gained national prominence as a correspondent.

“1986,” a one-hour series, will air throughout the summer at 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights and definitely will be on NBC’s fall schedule, although no decision has been made yet on which night, the spokesman said.

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It will be broader in scope, more hard-hitting and of a more investigative bent than was “American Almanac,” he added. The program’s executive producer is Edward M. Fouhy, who held the same job at “Almanac.”

The decision to proceed with “1986" was reached last week but wasn’t announced until the title had been cleared for copyright and Chung had signed her new contract. The go-ahead came after several weeks of deliberations by NBC News President Larry Grossman and NBC Chairman Grant Tinker.

The latter frequently has voiced strong support for a news series as part of NBC’s prime-time lineup.

“Almanac” last year got a six-show tryout and was broadcast on a monthly basis through January. Grossman’s intent was to make it a weekly series after that.

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But NBC, dissatisfied with the program’s look and pace, announced, then postponed, the program’s return to the network on three occasions.

It said that the series needed more work, leading to wide speculation within NBC News that its new bid to field a prime-time news magazine was doomed to failure.

Friday’s announcement by the division gave NBC its first weekly prime-time news series in two years. Its last one, “First Camera,” was canceled in April, 1984.

“1986" will raise to four the number of news magazine series offered by the networks. In addition to CBS’ high-rated “60 Minutes” and ABC’s “20/20,” CBS’ flashy new “West 57th” will start a 13-week summer run on Wednesday.

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“West 57th” had a tryout run of six weeks last fall, then was taken off the schedule, a move that had been planned before the program’s debut. There was speculation it would return in March.

But CBS, aware that news series generally don’t score as high in ratings as entertainment fare, kept the program off its schedule until after the end of the 1985-86 season, which ended on April 20.


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