ABC Cancels ‘Dolly’ and ‘Spenser,’ Will Revive ‘Columbo’

Times Staff Writer

ABC has canceled “Dolly,” its $40-million attempt to revive the variety hour, but plans to resuscitate another genre by bringing back Peter Falk as “Columbo” in the fall, the network said Monday.

As it did when it ran on NBC from 1971 to 1977, “Columbo” will be seen in rotation with two other series under an umbrella title of “ABC Mystery Movie”: one starring Burt Reynolds as a retired Florida cop-turned-private eye and another featuring Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr. as a traveling anthropologist.

In announcing its fall prime-time season, ABC said that it in addition to canceling Dolly Parton’s first-year variety show, which continued to flounder in the ratings despite a major creative overhaul in January, the network has eliminated “Spenser: For Hire,” a series starring Robert Urich as a sensitive Boston private eye; “The ‘Slap’ Maxwell Story,” a dramedy starring Dabney Coleman as an insensitive sports writer, and “Ohara,” featuring Pat Morita as a veteran police lieutenant.

“The Charmings,” “I Married Dora,” “Buck James,” “Sledge Hammer!,” “Supercarrier,” “The Thorns,” “Probe,” “Once a Hero,” “Just in Time,” “Sable” and “Family Man” were other casualties this season.


NBC and Fox Broadcasting announced their fall schedules last week. CBS is expected to reveal its schedule today, although a network spokesman said that announcement could be delayed because CBS is involved in bidding for broadcast rights to the 1992 Winter Olympic Games this week.

CBS previously announced the renewal of “Frank’s Place,” and the spokesman said new episodes of “Coming of Age,” a mid-season replacement that was pulled from the schedule in March after just a couple of airings, have been ordered, though not necessarily for fall. “Murder, She Wrote” and CBS’ three prime-time soaps--"Dallas,” “Knots Landing” and “Falcon Crest"--also are understood to have been renewed. An advertising executive in New York said that a pilot based on the hit movie “Dirty Dancing” is likely to be part of CBS’ fall lineup.

ABC, which finished second in the official season standings this year but since has dropped back to the third-place spot it had occupied for the previous three TV seasons, gave no official start date for the 1988-89 season. A spokesman said the date would be determined by the resolution of the continuing Writers Guild of America strike.

When the season does get under way, ABC’s new series will include “Roseanne,” starring deadpan comedienne Roseanne Barr as a housewife; “Murphy’s Law,” with George Segal as an insurance investigator; “Knightwatch,” about a group of young crimefighters, starring Benjamin Bratt, Don Franklin and Ava Haddad, and “A Fine Romance,” featuring Anthony Andrews as a TV personality who shares the screen with his ex-wife, portrayed by Maggie Han.

The network will replace its “Disney Sunday Movie,” which has moved to NBC as “The Magical World of Disney,” with “Incredible Sunday,” a reality-based series produced by the makers of ABC’s 1980-84 series “That’s Incredible.”

The list of series that ABC renewed for fall includes four mid-season shows: “The Wonder Years,” a half-hour comedy that views the late 1960s through the eyes of a suburban 12-year-old; “China Beach,” another nostalgic effort about the women stationed in Vietnam; “HeartBeat,” about a women’s medical clinic, and “Just the Ten of Us,” a comedy spin-off of “Growing Pains,” featuring the character of the coach and his large Catholic family.

Shows that made their debut last fall and will be back include the baby-boomers’ favorite “thirtysomething”; “Hooperman,” starring John Ritter as a San Francisco cop, and “Full House,” a comedy about three bachelors raising children.

“Dynasty,” ABC’s long-running nighttime soap, will also return, moving from its 10 p.m. Wednesday time period to Thursdays at 9 p.m.


Here is ABC’s complete schedule:

Monday: “MacGyver,” “Monday Night Football.”

Tuesday: “Who’s the Boss?,” “Roseanne,” “Moonlighting,” “thirtysomething.”

Wednesday: “Growing Pains,” “Head of the Class,” “The Wonder Years,” “Hooperman,” “China Beach.”


Thursday: “Knightwatch,” “Dynasty,” “HeartBeat.”

Friday: “Perfect Strangers,” “Full House,” “Mr. Belvedere,” “Just the 10 of Us,” “20/20.”

Saturday: “Murphy’s Law,” “ABC Mystery Movie.”

Sunday: “Incredible Sunday,” “A Fine Romance,” “ABC Sunday Movie.”