'Home': Where ABC Hopes the TV Watcher Is

Times Staff Writer

America wants to know how to make window cleaning fun.

At least, that was the conclusion of a five-month market research project by ABC to find out what women viewers want to see on daytime TV.

"In August of 1986, we went out into the field to talk to women viewers about what type of show they'd be willing to sit down and watch," said Mary Alice Dwyer-Dobbin, ABC's vice president of daytime programs, East Coast. "The more in-depth we got and the more people we talked to, they were saying, 'We want a show that would really help us with our home activities.'

"What they seemed to be saying was, 'In many ways, we're underappreciated and overworked,' " Dwyer-Dobbin continued. "They really were telling us they wanted a sense of validation, someone to say, 'You're out there, we're thinking about you, here's something to help you.' "

The result of that research is "Home," an information/talk program that debuts today and will be shown at 10:30 a.m. each weekday (Channels 7 and 42).

The half-hour show--executive-produced by "Good Morning America" veteran Woody Fraser and hosted by former KCBS-TV Channel 2 anchor Sandy Hill and former "Entertainment Tonight" host Robb Weller--offers an alternative to daytime's steady diet of game shows and soap operas by providing practical information to the homemaker.

Along with "making window cleaning fun," other first-week fare includes tips on buying and remodeling a home, cooking under-$25 gourmet meals for four and baking "unique cakes" in addition to more serious subjects such as coping with aging parents and helping children prepare for surgery.

Dwyer-Dobbin said ABC decided to try "Home" because the network "had trouble" getting good ratings in that morning time slot. Most recently it had been airing reruns of "Mr. Belvedere" there.

She calls "Home" a showcase for the "four H's"--Home, Hearth, Health and Happiness--which she said are primary concerns for women. She did say women , not the gender-neutral homemaker.

When questioned about whether the show would glorify the image of woman as housewife, host Hill said: "I don't think it ('Home') says it's OK to be a housewife; I think it's saying it's OK to have these problems."

Dwyer-Dobbin added that the show's focus on the home represents the new "cocooning" trend cited by New York-based contemporary trend forecaster Faith Popcorn. Accordingly, the show has purchased a $167,000 home in Northridge to use as a set, since the network found traditional sets "too cold" and not homey enough.

One feature of the show will be a computer that uses graphics to illustrate the way the home might look after various improvements.

Dwyer-Dobbin said "Home" will differ from current how-to fare by providing "in-depth" instruction rather than simply entertaining viewers. "When we show how to do something, you'll know how to do it," she said.

Take cooking, for example: Rather than bringing in celebrity cooks to prepare expensive gourmet dishes, producer Fraser said that "Home" will look for its own stable of cooking experts to prepare ordinary meals.

And, he said, "Home" will spend as long as it takes to explain something, rather than opting for short, flashy segments. In a representative show screened for the press, a guest spends 10 minutes talking about how she coped with her daughter's scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

Fraser added that the show would avoid the current Oprah Winfrey-Phil Donahue focus on pop psychology. "This is a how-to show. I don't want to talk about things, I want to do it," he said. "The psychology is implicit."

Along with featuring TV handy-hints veterans such as Carol Duvall, Fraser hopes to develop new faces as experts for "Home," including a "Movie Mom" who will review feature films from a parent's perspective.

Fraser admitted that, even with 85% of ABC's affiliated stations committed to air "Home," ABC is "taking a chance" with a format yet to be proven with the daytime audience.

In the meantime, those plastic net bags for onions and potatoes can be saved for use as scouring pads for grimy pots and pans. As they say on "Home": Why throw 'em away?

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