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‘GMA’ Ratings Dynasty Rolls On and On

TV or not TV. . . .

HOT SHOTS: Talk about a dynasty--the last time ABC’s “Good Morning America” lost the weekly ratings was in 1989.

In case you hadn’t noticed, “GMA,” anchored by Charles Gibson and Joan Lunden, now has been the winner for 82 consecutive weeks.

That means every week of 1990 and every week thus far this year, despite some recent ratings movement by NBC’s runner-up “Today” show.

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In the latest rankings, for the week of July 22-26, “Good Morning America” had a 3.7 rating while “Today” pulled a 3.3. That’s a difference of about 372,000 TV households.

In short, NBC is still paying the price for forcing Jane Pauley off “Today.”

ANOTHER SIGHTING: It’s called “The Elvis Files,” it airs from Las Vegas on Aug. 14 on KTLA Channel 5, and it promises “new evidence” about the death of Elvis Presley.

The two-hour special, with host Bill Bixby, also deals, of course, with the many reported Elvis sightings.

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For inquiring minds, the broadcast promises information from “previously sealed files” about “the mysteries of Elvis Presley’s death.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t follow in the tradition of “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults,” Geraldo Rivera’s 1986 reality special, which, as a matter of fact, was also carried by KTLA.

The station, however, wouldn’t mind the same tune-in. “Capone” went through the roof in the ratings even though it disclosed nothing new.

HISTORY: If we hadn’t read up on the “Movie Milestones” series presented by the American Movie Classics channel, we wouldn’t have realized that it has been 35 years since Presley made his motion picture debut in the 1956 Western “Love Me Tender.” Do you remember the love interest? Debra Paget.

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AS TIME GOES BY: Hard to believe that the fascinating, complicated Nelson family profiled in People magazine had its roots in “Ozzie & Harriet.”

HEAVY HITTER: Terrific offbeat programming each Sunday at 8 p.m. when the Prime Ticket network reruns some of the greatest baseball games ever played. This Sunday, it’s Game 6 of the 1971 World Series, with Pittsburgh versus Baltimore. And on Oct. 6, it’s Dodger heaven--the first game of the 1988 World Series, when Kirk Gibson slugged his unforgettable homer against Oakland.

GRAND FINALE: Let’s hope ABC had a few nightmares after the exquisite final episode of the canceled series “China Beach” and the solid ratings it drew.

VESTED INTEREST: Johnny Carson has been taking deadly honest--and funny--shots on the “Tonight Show” at the sad state of affairs at NBC. He has a right: He kept the network alive in its worst years, and it clearly pains him to see what is happening under current strategy.

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Carson also handled, with memorable grace, a “Tonight” tribute to his late son Rick, who died recently in an auto accident. It was the best possible judgment for Carson to use his own arena to comment on such a deeply personal matter.

LINK: David Letterman’s director, Hal Gurnee, handled the same chore for years for Jack Paar, former host of “Tonight.” Letterman pokes a lot of fun at Gurnee but acknowledges that no one has been more important to his success. Gurnee, by the way, is responsible for the fabulous opening sequence of the Letterman show.

THE NATURAL: NBC shouldn’t just forget about former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop after his recent group of health specials for the network. In the right weekly vehicle, Koop would be a sure-fire major hit--a way for TV to do reality programming in an upscale and yet commercial form. He’s a very real, likable TV personality.

NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO: Rick Dees, whose “Into the Night” series on ABC was a pretty good TV version of the Titanic, can’t really be serious about trying another television show. Didn’t he get the message? Well, OK, everybody deserves a second chance. But I think maybe he should give us a few years to recuperate.

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NEW ARRIVAL: KCAL Channel 9 has beefed up its political coverage by signing Josh Mankiewicz, a veteran of ABC and CBS News. As political reporter, he’ll range from local and state matters to the national scene.

HOUSE RULES: The TV academy has issued regulations for screenings at its new theater in North Hollywood, and among them is that talking during films is banned. Violations of such regulations “can result in immediate revocation of Film Group membership,” the academy says. Presumably, second-time offenders will be taken outside and executed at the foot of the nearby Emmy statue.

POURING IT ON: It must be galling for NBC, CBS and ABC, which are cutting back news operations, to see that CNN is opening three new bureaus--in Amman, Jordan; New Delhi; and Rio de Janeiro. CNN also has foreign bureaus in Beijing; Berlin; Brussels; Cairo; Jerusalem; London; Managua, Nicaragua; Manila; Moscow; Nairobi, Kenya; Paris; Rome; Santiago, Chile; Seoul, and Tokyo.

BAH, HUMBUG: Now, let’s see--the government delayed limiting commercials on some children’s TV shows until Jan. 1 so that stations could cash in on Christmas ads for toys. A TV station official said, “If it were not for the fourth quarter (of the year), you would basically not have children’s TV.” All I know is what I read in the papers, but please tell me that nobody really said that.

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BOTTOM LINE: For those who wonder why NBC keeps sticking with “Quantum Leap” through its ups and downs, former network honcho Brandon Tartikoff, now head of Paramount Pictures, says: “The demographics are through the roof. Next to ‘L.A. Law’ and ‘Cheers,’ ‘Quantum Leap’ is the most desired demographic show on NBC.”

READ ‘EM AND WEEP: Any NBC executive who checks the season-ending ratings for four years ago might just break down and cry: “The Cosby Show” averaged 53% of the TV audience-- for the whole season. “Family Ties” averaged 49% and “Cheers” 41%. Network TV was in its last real blaze of glory before the roof fell in.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: The authors of the new book “Watching America,” which deals with TV’s effect on our lives, conclude that women have been presented on screen “as man’s better half but not his equal.”

Say good night, Gracie. . . .

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