Prime time does not start at 7:30 p.m. on NBC, as one local television station would like you to believe, but first-run syndication does. In fact, original non-network programming can now be seen around the clock and all around your TV dial.
The new fare for fall ranges from talk shows hosted by Geraldo Rivera and Wil Shriner to revivals of "Star Trek," "The Monkees," "Sea Hunt" and "Punky Brewster." They'll be competing against such continuing first-run shows as "Donahue," "Oprah Winfrey," "Mama's Family," "Throb" and "Charles in Charge."
But most attention will be focused on weeknights at 7:30 p.m., where KNBC Channel 4 is introducing five new comedy series that will compete against five comedies on KTLA Channel 5, which went to the so-called "comedy checkerboard" format last year. In doing so, the independent station moved from sixth to third in the time period, known in the industry as prime-access.
"We looked at the time period and saw what access had become--three game shows, two magazine shows and 'MASH,' " recalled Steve Bell, KTLA's general manager. "What we concluded was there really wasn't anything on commercial television for younger audiences. Families were disenfranchised at 7:30 and we thought this the best possible competitive environment."
He thinks KNBC, with its much-publicized "prime time begins at 7:30" checkerboard, "is playing follow the leader."
However, KNBC general manager John H. Rohrbeck insists that he's been planning the checkerboard since experiencing success with "It's a Living" in a Saturday slot back in November, 1985. He also thinks he's found shows more worthy of a network affiliate.
"People will tune in with greater expectations in terms of quality, and we will live up to the expectation," he said. "In terms of looking at us and comparing (our) shows to network shows--budgets are the same, all are from major studios, they all have producers and writers whose backgrounds are in prime-time network programs and they all have network stars."
Bell agrees that first-run syndication product compares to the networks' offerings.
"It may be a brand-new business but I would stack the best (of syndication) against the network best," Bell said with a laugh, "and the networks' worst against our worst."
Here is a rundown of the first-run syndicated programming to be seen locally this season.
KCBS-TV CHANNEL 2
"The Dom DeLuise Show" (Fridays at 7:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 25): DeLuise stars as the owner of a Hollywood barber shop located across the street from a film studio. Charlie Callas plays a private eye who works out of the shop. George Wallace, Maureen Murphy and Lois Foraker also star.
"Richard Simmons' Slim Cooking" (weekdays at 11 a.m., beginning Sept. 21): Low-calorie recipes, cooking hints and tips on health and fitness are the focus of this half-hour series featuring the once-and-future fitness guru. Chefs from throughout the Southland will guest.
KNBC-TV CHANNEL 4
"Marblehead Manor" (Mondays at 7:30 p.m., beginning tonight): Offbeat characters and visual humor are the lure of this broad comedy about the inhabitants of a lavish estate owned by an eccentric millionaire. Paxton Whitehead stars.
"She's the Sheriff" (Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., beginning this week): Suzanne Summers ("Three's Company") returns to TV as a widow who assumes the job of her late husband in a small Nevada town. Pat Carroll plays her mother.
"You Can't Take It With You" (Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., beginning this week): Harry Morgan brings his dry humor to this adaptation of the Moss Hart/George S. Kaufman play about an eccentric widower and his eccentric family living in an old Victorian mansion in Staten Island. Lois Nettleton also stars.
"Out of This World" (Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., beginning this week): Donna Pescow ("Angie") stars as the mother of a teen-ager who, on her 13th birthday, inherits her alien father's otherworldly powers. Maureen Flannigan also stars.
"We Got It Made" (Fridays at 7:30 p.m., beginning this week): Teri Copley returns to the failed NBC series that didn't make her a star (but did help launch a career for "Hunter's" Stepfanie Kramer). It's a "Three's Company" variation in which a cute young blonde becomes a live-in housekeeper for a couple of cute young guys.
"Comedy Club" (Saturdays at 6:30 p.m., beginning this week): Stand-up comedy from some of the country's better known--and lesser known--comics. It's from George Schlatter, the man who produced "Laugh-In" and "Real People."
"Sea Hunt" (Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 26): Ron Ely, best known as TV's "Tarzan," revives Mike Nelson, the ex-Navy frogman willing to go to any depth for anyone willing to hire him. For those too young to remember, Lloyd Bridges played Nelson from 1957 to 1961.
KTLA CHANNEL 5
"The New Monkees" (Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 22): The much-hyped revival of the old shtick-com starring a new cast. Youth-oriented humor revolves around the exploits of the new fab four. An album and concert tour will coincide with the show's run.
"Punky Brewster" (Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 23): Former NBC munchkin Soleil Moon Frye returns to the tube after a year's absence for a try in first-run syndication. It's the same show with the same cast--George Gaynes plays adoptive father Henry--with stories revolving around the relationship between the generations.
"Bustin' Loose" (Fridays at 7:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 25): Jimmie Walker ("Good Times") returns in this adaptation of the movie of the same name. It's a lighthearted comedy about a devil-may-care con artist who hooks up with a social worker (Vonetta McGee) and her four foster kids.
"Geraldo" (weekdays at 9 a.m.): Former "20/20" newsman Geraldo Rivera is now the host of a news-based talk program. It debuted Sept. 4.
KABC-TV CHANNEL 7
"D.C. Follies" (Saturdays at 6:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 26): The Krofft Puppets come to syndication in this spoof of current events.
"Fan Club" (Sundays at 5 p.m., beginning Sept. 26): Gymnast Mitch Gaylord hosts the youth-oriented series that will look at the loves and lives of young celebrities from various walks of life.
KHJ-TV CHANNEL 9
"Wil Shriner Show" (weeknights at 10, beginning tonight): One-hour talk/variety/comedy/information show revolving around the comedic talents of its host. Like David Letterman's late-night show on NBC, it will include in-studio interviews, taped on-location segments and studio stunts.
KTTV CHANNEL 11
"Friday the 13th: The Series" (Saturday at 11 p.m., beginning Oct. 3): The name is about all that this show shares with the movies. In it, cousins inherit an old antique store, then must retrieve everything they've sold when they learn it all has been cursed by the devil. The graphic bloodshed of the films is replaced with terror and suspense, the producers say. Ryan Dallion, Micki Foster and Jack Marshak star.
"Dr. Science" (Saturdays at 11 a.m., beginning Saturday: A "Mr. Wizard"-like kids show that aims to entertain and inform. Members of the San Francisco-based Duck's Breath Mystery Theater comedy troupe lead the way.
KCOP CHANNEL 13
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" (Sundays at 5 p.m., beginning Oct. 11; repeats the following Saturday at 6 p.m.): The TV-series-turned-movie-series turns back to television, but Capt. Kirk and crew have abandoned the starship Enterprise. Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton and Denise Crosby star as the new crew in the Gene Roddenberry-produced project.