Future of 'Indiana Jones' Up in the Air

TV or not TV. . . .

STRATEGY: This is a good time to check out George Lucas' new ABC series, "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles."

Starting Wednesday, it offers a two-parter set in Africa, with the youthful hero meeting Albert Schweitzer in the second half of the adventure.

The two episodes wind up the half dozen that ABC scheduled for a spring tryout, and now the network must make up its mind about the future of the series, which stars Sean Patrick Flanery in the title role.

It debuted strongly on March 4, in great part because of a huge publicity buildup and the pre-sold title linked to the "Indiana Jones" motion pictures. After that, however, the one-hour series performed only adequately in the ratings and then slipped to just a 17% audience share last week.

It's a colorful piece of work but, ironically, ABC's successful hype may have led to a letdown of viewers who expected a TV spinoff similar to the wham-bang, cliffhanger movies.

Lucas himself warned before the debut, "I told ABC we shouldn't sell this as a big action thing because it's not a big action thing. They are selling it as a big action thing. They cannot get it out of their mind."

The hype was, in fact, misleading because the series, rather than a grand-scale action epic, was intended as a vivid but lower-key adventure of a young man growing up. Certainly not an average young man with average adventures--but hardly the definitive swashbuckler of the films.

What's more, the 9-10 p.m. time period somehow seems inappropriate for the show at the moment, unless ABC can create a clever image campaign that makes the slot appear perfect--a middle-of-the-evening draw for both kids and adults.

The two-part Africa tale, which is expected to help ABC decide about the series--whether perhaps to run it out in summer or bring it back in the fall--was directed by Simon Wincer, who guided the great Western miniseries "Lonesome Dove."

WINNER: When it comes to promotion, ABC certainly should have pulled out all the stops for its two-hour presentation last week of "Broadway Bound," written by Neil Simon and starring Anne Bancroft.

Sure, there was some hype, but this was one of the most memorable specials of the season--the latest production of the distinguished "ABC Theater" series, which once made the network stand apart from the pack in adult drama.

"Broadway Bound" brought honor to the network and reminded us of what we are missing on TV, yet unfortunately it was scheduled against the killer competition of "Murphy Brown," "Designing Women" and "Northern Exposure."

AMUSEMENT PARK: Johnny Carson noted that the city of Burbank will be naming a park after him. He said it will be open three days a week and that the water in the drinking fountain will be cool and aloof.

On April 10, by the way, Carson's longtime competitor, Ted Koppel of ABC's "Nightline," will visit the comedian on his NBC "Tonight Show," from which he is retiring May 22.

BOOKINGS: For those who love the special atmosphere that great libraries convey, KCET Channel 28 has a couple of specials that sound intriguing.

On Monday, we'll get "The People's Palace: Secrets of the New York Public Library." The title is terrible--it sounds like Geraldo Rivera poking around Al Capone's vaults. But fear not--Jason Robards Jr. narrates the one-hour documentary.

Next Tuesday, meanwhile, KCET offers "Memory & Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress," another one-hour documentary, with folks like Gore Vidal, Ted Koppel, Isaac Stern and Francis Ford Coppola acting as tour guides.

Both shows air at 11 p.m.

THE SPORTING LIFE: That Christian Laettner shot in Duke's last-second, overtime victory against Kentucky may not quite match Kirk Gibson's all-time Dodger homer for drama, but it's not far behind. It's fabulous every time you see it on TV.

JUMPER: Bill Walton is turning into the most enjoyably outspoken basketball commentator on TV since Bill Russell. In a discussion during the weekend's NCAA playoffs, he told longtime Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps that one of his comments was "hogwash."

HOT COMMODITIES: Whoopi Goldberg's new, fall talk show already has lined up 98 stations covering 81% of the nation. Carroll O'Connor's "In the Heat of the Night" has sold its reruns to 110 stations in 77% of the country. And Bill Cosby's syndicated, fall game show, "You Bet Your Life," keeps rolling up the clients, with 106 stations now on board blanketing 76% of all markets.

FOR THE AGES: No one who ever saw John Ireland, who died recently, as Broderick Crawford's disillusioned political aide in the Oscar-winning "All the King's Men"--often rerun on TV--will ever forget his performance. Few actors could convey skepticism about the human race better than Ireland.

OSCAR SOUND BITES: Seventy years ago, Will Hays moved in on the movie industry to improve Hollywood's morals--an oxymoron, you might say. . . .

Sixty years ago, Radio City Music Hall opened. . . .

Fifty years ago, "Casablanca" was released and went on to win the Oscar (1943). And "White Christmas" was introduced in "Holiday Inn" and also got a statuette. . . .

Ten years ago, on TV, Katharine Hepburn won her fourth Oscar and Henry Fonda finally got one--both for "On Golden Pond."

MEDIA-WISE: Politics aside, bravo to Jerry Brown for refusing to be bulldozed and intimidated by news anchors and other TV commentators who try to cut him off. He understands TV better than any other candidate and, like the public, no longer is impressed by its arrogance.

PAST IMPERFECT: Those old Fox Movietone News clips on the American Movie Classics channel really look absurd now, especially the hard-hitting "coverage" of the studio's premieres under head honcho Darryl F. Zanuck. So why do I love watching it all? Because it's great social history.

AIRBORNE: KTLA Channel 5's two-hour "Morning News," which stunned its network competitors in the February ratings sweeps by beating them all, is adding helicopter traffic reports to cover the 7-9 a.m. rush hour.

BEING THERE: "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and fellow surfers."--Alfred Hitchcock in "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

Say good night, Gracie. . . .

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