TODAY’S NEWS, TOMORROW’S TELEVISION : Hunter gets a cohort, NBC plans a Danielle Steele fest and, yee-haw, here’s The Cowboy Channel



Darlanne Fluegel from “Crime Story” will join the cast of NBC’s police drama “Hunter” next season. Fluegel will play Joann Malinski, an irreverent cop who becomes a new partner for Rick Hunter (Fred Dryer). After six years as a homicide detective, Hunter will be transferred this fall to the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Metro Division.


Two related NBC movies, “Danielle Steel’s Fine Things” and “Danielle Steel’s Kaleidoscope,” will be telecast back-to-back in the 1990-91 TV season to create a sort of thematic miniseries. Both movies, now starting production, are based on the work of the best-selling romance novelist.


NBC is making plans for “FBI: The Outlaw Years,” a four-hour miniseries about a young FBI agent and his mentor, a former territorial marshall, who are determined to help end the rampant crime wave threatening to destroy the country in the 1930s. They try to bring to justice such legendary outlaws as Ma Barker, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly and Pretty Boy Floyd.


Michele Lee and Justine Bateman take a vacation in Europe to rebuild their fractured mother-daughter relationship and end up being pursued by killers in the CBS movie “Strangers,” now in production in Paris. The two are set upon when they unknowingly capture evidence of a murder while videotaping a French couple in a passionate embrace.

Corbin Bernsen just completed filming a starring role in “The Morris Dees Story,” an NBC drama about a Southern lawyer and founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center who wages a legal battle against a secret society bent on reasserting white supremacy in the United States. The movie, co-starring Jenny Lewis, will be telecast in the 1990-91 season.


Phylicia Rashad is the sophisticated yuppie from Los Angeles. Dyan Cannon is the backwoods bumpkin from Louisiana. The two mismatched ladies, both accused of crimes they didn’t commit, are thrown together in a prison cell for laughs in “Jailbirds,” a CBS movie now shooting in Lafayette, La.

From Boston newspapers to TV movie in near-record time, “The Charles Stuart Story” has begun production as a CBS movie. Ken Olin will star as the man who killed his pregnant wife in their car, inflicted a gunshot wound on himself and then blamed it on a robber before eventually committing suicide. Margaret Colin has been cast as a local newspaper reporter who uncovers the case.

NBC announced four theatrical titles the network picked up for its 1990-91 season: “Three Men and a Baby,” starring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg; “Good Morning Vietnam,” with Robin Williams and Forest Whitaker; Sidney Poitier’s thriller “Shoot to Kill,” co-starring Tom Berenger and Kirstie Alley; and “Satisfaction,” featuring Justine Bateman and pretty woman Julia Roberts.

Lifetime, trying to challenge the bigger movie channels with first-run programming for women, has acquired exclusive cable rights to debut “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” July 4. The critically acclaimed 1988 drama stars “My Left Foot’s” Daniel Day-Lewis as a womanizing neurosurgeon from Prague.



Gary Collins will host “The Miss America Pageant” on Sept. 8 for the ninth consecutive year in a row. Reigning Miss America Debbye Turner will be on hand for the live NBC broadcast from the boardwalk in Atlantic City to crown her successor.

Tony Award Productions and CBS have agreed on a contract extension that allows CBS to broadcast the annual Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards through 1995. CBS broadcast the 44th annual Tony Awards last Sunday with host Kathleen Turner.



In Court, this fall’s planned cable channel offering live coverage of judicial proceedings, may be proceeding into battle with a similar service called the American Trial Network. It is reportedly being planned by the owners of the publication The American Lawyer, although founder Steven Brill repeatedly has declined comment on the reports.

Communications Equity Associates, a Tampa, Fla.-based investment banking firm specializing in the communications business, reportedly plans to test a how-to cable service later this year. The idea is to assemble short segments on topics such as fixing a faucet or repairing a light fixture. If it works, the network could be launched in 1991.

Singer Willie Nelson is heading a group planning to launch The Cowboy Channel late this year with Western movies and reruns of popular TV series such as “Gunsmoke,” “The Virginian” and “Wagon Train.” President Mack Long said the service also would feature new programs, music and a weekly show called “The Songwriter.”

The backers of a proposed Talk Channel have been working on their proposal for more than two years and aren’t ready to talk about it in detail. But Paul Fitzpatrick, the founder of Talk Television Partners of Wilton, Conn., described the concept as “talk radio with pictures.” No target date for launch has been set.