KTLA Strengthens Its Checkerboard Format

KTLA Channel 5 said Wednesday that, thanks in part to KNBC Channel 4, it will stick with a weeknight comedy checkerboard lineup next season despite only moderate ratings success this year.

The decision, according to KTLA General Manager Steve Bell, was in part the result of KNBC's decision to cancel its competing comedy checkerboard--its so-called "prime time begins at 7:30" programming. In its place next fall, NBC-owned Channel 4 will run a new "Family Feud" series hosted by Ray Combs.

"With their competition out of the way, the market goes back to where it was in our first season of checkerboarding (in 1986-87)--three game shows, two magazine shows and 'MASH," Bell said. "Those were the conditions that led to the success of our checkerboard in the first place."

KTLA has renewed three of its current comedies--"Bustin' Loose," "Charles in Charge" and "Punky Brewster"--and already has purchased several others. They include "Out of This World," currently part of the KNBC checkerboard; "My Secret Identity," described as a "Back to the Future"-like comedy starring Jerry O'Connell, and "The Munsters Today," a revival of the 1960s monster hit starring John Schuck and Lee Meriwether.

Five of those six comedies, Bell said, will comprise next season's 7:30 weeknight schedule. The other, he added, could wind up as weekend offerings.

"You need as many strong shows as you can get," Bell said. "You can't have some good shows and others pulling down your average, which has been our problem. Now we think we have more strength across the board."

Gone from this season's original checkerboard will be "The New Monkees," which already has been pulled from the KTLA lineup, and "The New Gidget." The latter cancellation, Bell said, is the result of Columbia's apparent decision not to continue production. "It seems to be canceled," said Bell. "Distributors believe that it's over."

KTLA also has "T and T," which debuts this week in the 7:30 p.m. Friday slot, but it's unlikely the show will remain there next season. Bell said that the half-hour action-adventure show, starring Mr. T, does not fit the checkerboard's comedy format.

Bell said he was surprised that the NBC-owned stations pulled the plug on their comedy checkerboard so early but wasn't terribly disappointed. "We welcomed KNBC into the checkerboarding arena because we felt, in our first year, checkerboarding had gotten a bum rap. We felt they helped legitimize it.

"But without KNBC next year," he concluded, "we think we can do much better than ever."

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