Places are already being reserved in the sweet bye and bye for TV shows that haven't even been produced.
Why, man (as Shakespeare used to say), most of them haven't even been on the air yet!
Nevertheless, the advance word from Madison Avenue nabobs and media savants is that the new TV season, still two months off, will be rife with failure. The whole thing could perhaps be canceled before it begins, were it not for the fact that billions of dollars in revenues are riding on it.
News is worst for NBC which, Fred Silverman or no Fred Silverman, is expected to remain in third place through the first half of the season at least. None of its new series are predicted to be hits, though at least four are seen as likely candidates for the flop heap.
One of these is "grandpa Goes to Washington," which should not be a very happy surprise for series star Jack Albertson, who arrives in Washington today to begin filming scenes for the show.
We can assume he will not be met by signs saying, "Grandpa Go Home."
The chief source for the dire forecasts is the adversiting agency of Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample, Inc. (DFS), which prepares an annual report on the enw season as a buying guide for its clients who, the agency says, will spend $200 million on network commercial time this year.
It may seen unusually severe to predict the cancellation of programs that have yet to be seen on the air, but television is nothing if not insanely competitive. And in this rock-em, sock-em, make-em, break-em world, they sometimes sock 'em before they rock 'em and break 'em before they make 'em.
The DFS analysis is largely echoed by the fortune telling of Herb Jacobs, long-time for any real excitement until the 1979-80 season," when new NBC president Silverman's programming influence will be evident.
That influence is already painfully evident, of course, on ABC, which is Silverman's former roost and is expected to stay in first place next season.
DFS and Jacobs agree on five shows as possible hits, none of them on NBC: "Battle Star Galactica," the expensive new ABC sei-fi series: "Kaz," a CBS drama about a rebellious excon turned laywer; "WKRP in Cincinnati," a CBS sit-com about a raggle-taggle radio station; "Vegas," ABC's action series about a bully-boy, ladies' man detective; and "Taxi," an ABC comedy that is the "Barney Miller" of the cabbie set.
DFS hails "galactica" as "the season's most promising new program," but the promise won't be kept if 20th Century-Fox movie "Star Wars" is considerably more than nodding.
It remains to be seen whether the suit will delay the "Galactia" premiere.
Jacobs also predicts success for "Mary." Mary Tyler Moore's new Sunday night variety series on CBS, but DFS thinks "Galactica," scheduled opposite it, could blast little Mary into a gillion atoms.
Of course there will be more failures than successes.
Predicted as likely candidates for the bottom of the barrel are "Who's Watching the Kids?", "Lifeline" and "Grandpa" on NBC; "Apple Pie" and "Mork and Mindy" on ABC; and, on CBS, "People," "The Paper Chase" and two bouney jiggle-fests, "Flying High" and "American Girls."
In the first five minutes of the pilot for "American Girls," the shapely heroines not only wriggle into their bathing suits, they also get them wet. This would seem a sure formula for success, but DFS predicts it is "dommed from the start."
"Flying High," the "Love Boal" of the skies is expected to join "Spencer's Pools" in the graveyard of the air.
The predictions for hits and flops don't necessarily have much to do with the quality of the program, as judged from advance looks at pilot episodes or scripts. For instance, all advance reports on "Paper Chase," adapted from the movie about a tough college professor and the law student he terrorizes, indicate it is an intelligent, engrossing, adult series. But it will be up against "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" on ABC, and that time slot is now considered suicide alley.
Jacobs thinks "Paper Chase" will at least come in second in the race, leaving NBC's "Runaways" free to run away with third.
How reliable are the forecasts? Jacobs is considered fairly president. So is the DFS report, although there have been some bad calls. For the 1976-77 season, DFS predicted big things for "All's Fair," "Executive Suite," "The Nancy Walker Show" and "Delvecchio," none of which lived to see the light at the end of the season. NBC's miserable excuse for a cop series, "Serpico," which died in a matter of weeks, was acclaimed the network's "most promising new show."
And while there are plenty of know-it-alls in the TV biz, nobody knows it ALL. Even the DFS report concedes that some shows could go either way, into the hit or miss column. These include NBC's "W.E.B.," and "Dallas" on CBS.
The predictions are not made to depress viewers, whose expectations may not be all that high anyway, but to assist ad agencies in buying optimum commercial time. If the season sounds like a drag, that hasn't affected sales. Network TV is selling at the hotcake rate again. In television, it's not whether you win or lose. It's whether you win big or just have to content yourself with a fortune.