The corporate-approved, 100 percent official storyline for the upcoming CBS series "Flying High" begins "Three beautiful girls . . ."
Have networks no shame?
No, they gave up shame some time ago, and so the new fall schedule announced yesterday by CBS included not just one but two new shows about the adventures of beautiful girls - a Charlie's reporters as well as a Charlie's stewardesses. And in addition to that, there's Charlie's cheerleader, Phyllis George, hosting a new Monday night half-hour patterned after People magazine.
May we be among the first to condemn the new television season even before it begins, on the grounds that eventually we'd get around to it anyway.
CBS announced eight new series (compared to five announced Monday by top-ranked ABC), comprising 6 1/2 hours of programming (vs. ABC's 3 1/2) and confirmed the cancellation of seven shows (ABC killed three) including "Kojak," "On Our Own," "Baby, I'm Back," "Maude," "The Bob Newhart Show," "The Tony Randall Show," and "The Amazing Spider-Man."
While "Spider-Man" fell to his doom, both "Wonder Woman" and "The Incredible Hulk" were granted reprieves.
CBS tinkered with every night of its schedule but one, Thursday, which will remain i the hands of "The Waltons," "Hawaii 5-0" and "Barnaby Jones." ABC also rearranged every night but one: Friday, on which "Donny and Marie" and "The ABC Friday Night Movie" stay ensconced.
Of the new CBS shows, four are hour-long dramas, two situation comedies, one a variety hour, and then there's "People," produced by David Susskind of Time-Life Television and billed by the network as an "informational personality program" that will concentrate on "the chic, current and glamorous aspects of the world around us" - sort of a "30 Minutes" of gossip. It's to air Mondays at 8 p.m.
"Mary," the one-hour musical comedy hour to star Mary Tyler Moore "and others to be announced," will air in Ed Sullivan's old 8 p.m. Sunday time slot, and considering programming trends could be the only new variety show to premiere next September.
Another show produced by MTM Enterprises, "WKRP in Cincinati," will be a half-hour situation comedy about a Cincinnati radio station threatened with failure until a new program director played by Gary Sandy bounces in and converts the format from golden oldies to modern rock. It will air Monday at 8:30 p.m.
"Just the Beginning," a comedy from Norman Lear's T.A.T. Communications Co., stars McLean Stevenson, formerly of "M*A*S*H," as dear old "shy and conservative" Father Cleary who faces weekly jousts in his humble storefront mission with Priscilla Lopez as that "young, worldly-wise nun" Sister Agnes, who faces the world with "a degree in social pyschology, an understanding nature, and a karate black belt," every Saturday at 8:30. not a parody of a new fall network schedule. THIS IS THE REAL THING.)
John Houseman will recreate his Oscar-Winning role as imperial Professor Kingsfield in a new one-hour drama series based on the film"The Paper Chase," with James Stephens as the young student on whom he vents wrath, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. - the sacrificial slot opposite "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley."
And here comes the girlies: "Flying High," Fridays at 10 p.m., follows "three beautiful girls," Pat Krous, Connie Sellecca and Kathryn Witt, who go through flight-attendant training together and, says the network, become "fast friends" (how do they mean that?), with Marcia Wallace, of the late "Newhart" show, as a nemesis flight-attendant instructor.
"The American Girls" are Priscilla Barnes and Debra Klinger who work as research assistants for "The American Report," a TV newsmagazine and each Saturday at 9 p.m. they will hopscotch the world for headlines in this "action-oriented drama."
The other new one-hour drama series is "Kaz," from the Lorimar production company that does "The Waltons." It stars Ron Liebman and Patrick O'Neal as, respectively, a "struggling young attorney who got his law degree and passed the bar exam while serving a prison sentence" and they guy who reluctantly hires him, the senior partner of a "prestigious L.A. law firm." The show will air Sundays at 10 p.m., considered a law-and-order timeslot at CBS from the days when "Kojak" was riding high.
Of 24 programs that premiered at the beginning of the 1977-78 TV season (including three shows picked up by NBC and CBS after ABC dropped them), 16 have been canceled and eight remain on the air. NBC canceled six of the seven new programs it introduced. One could get radical and call this the least successful TV season ever except for one little thing - all three networks' profits are at all-time highs. So much for the wages of mediocrity.
There's a risk, too, in finding the CBS schedule sign of further decline for the network that used to be known as the Tiffany's of television, since CBS didn't exactly start out last season on a note of high-toned refinement, either - what with "Young Dan'l Boone" and "Logan's Run" on the schedule. Still, the addition of the girlie shows, perhaps including gorgeous George's People-peeper, suggests that the way of all cash may be the way of all flesh as perfected by rival ABC.
The networks, meanwhile, are already disagreeing on the tender and increasingly irreleant question of when the new season will actually start. ABC says it starts Sept. 11. CBS said yesterday it starts Sept. 18. An NBC spokesman said, "We're above the battle at this point as to when the season starts" because that network's schedule won't be out until later this month.
ABC only wants to jump the gun, one industry observer noted, because it has shelled out $5 million for the Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks fight on Sept. 15 and doesn't want all that money to go for nothing, since at that cost it's unlikely the fight itself will show a profit for the network.
But, this tussle over principle is not unprecedented, either. The three networks have still not come to an agreement on when last season started.