Following its premiere last April, CBS sent out a press release singing the praises of the series about a young pioneer teacher in the 1900s trying to win the acceptance of poor and superstitious people living in a remote Appalachian region.
Touting the drama's strong ratings in its Thursday 8 p.m. time period, David Poltrack, the network's senior vice president of planning and research, said that the showing "is a sure sign that we have another 8 p.m. family drama to join 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman' and add further to our already commanding lead in prime-time dramatic programming."
But despite that glowing vote of confidence, some positive reviews and a viewer fan base, "Christy" has sat on the bench this season, except for one two-hour appearance at Thanksgiving.
The producers of "Christy" say that, without warning or explanation, CBS has given up on the series. The network says the 11 remaining episodes will be broadcast this summer, when the season is over and the fall schedule already has been set.
"We've just been ignored," said executive producer Barney Rosenzweig. "We don't fit into their plans, and they never bothered to drop two dimes to explain why. They couldn't find a place for our show in nine months, and now they're going to put it on in summer? What will the ratings mean then?"
Rosenzweig and Bill Allen, president of MTM Entertainment, which is one of the producers of the show, said that CBS Entertainment President Peter Tortorici's pronouncement to advertisers last week that the struggling network would be targeting younger viewers in the coming season is a further indication that "Christy" is out, since much of its appeal would be to older viewers or families.
"The pressures to pursue this core demographic will make them miss this other very important audience--heartland America," said Allen. "I just feel frustrated and bewildered by the whole thing."
"Christy" stars Kellie Martin in the title role, and also features Tyne Daly and Tess Harper. In the episodes yet to be broadcast, LeVar Burton is also in the cast as a medical student. Burton, who starred in "Roots" and was featured in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," was added to give the show more male and youth appeal, Allen said.
Both Rosenzweig and Allen said that "Christy" performed well after its midseason launch and that CBS officials promised them it would be placed on the schedule this season--most likely in the 9 p.m. Saturday slot after "Dr. Quinn," which they felt would be perfect for the family-oriented series.
CBS declined to comment on the charges by Rosenzweig and Allen. But network executives noted that there are several dramas on the schedule geared to older viewers, such as "Murder, She Wrote" and "Diagnosis Murder."
Allen said CBS has asked for an option to extend its rights to the show beyond May, but he said that could be difficult because the actors and crew would have to commit to the project.
"At this point, we don't know what we're going to do," he said. "We will talk to the performers to try and get an extension on their services. We will try to work it out with CBS, but we will also be talking to other networks."