NBC News has pulled its "American Almanac" magazine of the schedule for the second time in recent months . . .
The one-hour program had been set to debut in the weekly Tuesday-at-10 p.m. time slot on March 4 . . .
But on Tuesday of this week Executive Producer Ed Fouhy flew to New York and notified NBC News President Larry Grossman over lunch that it was not ready . . .
Fouhy said yesterday that a main factor in asking for the postponement was the earlier schedule of monthly versions of the show -- aired from August through January -- which, he said, "had dissipated the energies of the staff, which should have been directed at building up a backlog of pieces for the weekly version" . . .
Originally, "Almanac" was to join the weekly primetime schedule last month and on the occasion of that postponement, the lack of inventory was also cited . . . and instead a last monthly version of the program was aired Jan. 27 . . .
Tuesday afternoon, Grossman notified NBC Chairman Grant Tinker of the Fouhy request and asked if they could have a delay . . .
Tinker agreed and asked NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff to find a replacement for the show . . .
In a conference call late Tuesday linking the 50 or so "Almanac" employes in Washington, Los Angeles and New York, Fouhy and anchor Roger Mudd notified them of the schedule change . . .
(Late yesterday, Tartikoff announced that "Stingray," an action adventure drama from Stephen Cannell starring a Corvette with Nick Mancuso at the wheel, would air in the Tuesday time slot starting with a rerun March 4 of the two-hour pilot, which actually tied "The Cosby Show" for No. 1 in the weekly ratings when it aired last July) . . .
Tinker, a staunch backer of the primetime magazine idea, said yesterday that this second postponement "is somewhat embarrassing, but it's not the end of the world. We've always said the program would only go on the air when it was ready" . . .
Tinker said he expects the weekly version to finally make the NBC schedule in June. Meanwhile, there will be no further monthly editions . . .
In a statement yesterday, Grossman reiterated Fouhy's arguments, saying he had recommended the delay "because it is critical that the new series have the benefit of a full bank of high quality, well-produced stories . . .
"In the next few months, Ed Fouhy, Roger Mudd, Connie Chung and the entire . . . staff will be working full-time to build up that essential inventory of compelling stories" . . .
Grossman was more frank with the Associated Press, saying that the show's timetable was affected by a change in philosophy in midstream when it was determined that "Almanac" needed to have harder-edged stories and more timely issue-oriented stories. Grossman said the program didn't have enough of those pieces in reserve . . .
The postponement puts the "Almanac" staff up against a couple of deadlines. Several of the staffers signed one-year contracts that end in April, although most of them are expected to be renewed. This summer, moreover, Connie Chung's current contract with NBC is up . . . and depending on her future plans, that could portend further changes in the program's format . . .
"American Almanac" has been on a rocky road ever since it debuted as a monthly show last August. TV critics were lukewarm at best about the program, viewed generally as too slow and even anachronistic when compared with the jazzy CBS News magazine experiment, "West 57th," which got a six-week tryout late last summer and is due to return this spring for a 13-week run . . .
In its six monthly outings since August, "American Almanac" had averaged a 10 Nielsen rating and a 17 percent audience share . . . From October through January, the program had finished 63rd, 66th, in a tie for 60th and 59th in rankings for the week in which it appeared . . .
"West 57th" averaged a 10.9/19 during its trial run last summer . . .
Over 17 years, NBC News had launched more than a dozen failed magazine shows . . . Also in the News
Channel 5 yesterday announced the purchase ld,10 sk,2 sw,-2 of 109 movies, 24 from 20th Century-Fox and the rest in four separate packages from Warner Bros. . . .
Included in the Fox package are titles like "The Right Stuff," "Police Academy," "Oh God, You Devil!" and "Risky Business" . . .
The Warner Bros. films include such familiar titles as "Giant," "Bonnie and Clyde," "Magnum Force" and "Uptown Saturday Night" . . .
Channel 4 today will launch on-air promo campaigns for movie critic Arch Campbell and feature reporter Steve Doocy . . . The 30-second spots were produced by advertising and promotion director Bob Casazza and the L.A. firm of Jacobs & Gerber . . .
Home Box Office announced yesterday it will air a live, three-hour concert, called "Comic Relief," which will be held in Los Angeles the night of March 29. It's a fund-raising effort on behalf of the nation's homeless . . .
Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg headline the concert, which will star 20 additional comedy acts, including Sid Caesar, Jerry Lewis and John Candy . . . Air time in the East: 9 p.m. . . .
It's strictly blue sky right now -- one of many long-range alternatives being considered for NBC's "Nightly News" -- but a handful of NBC executives are discussing a one-hour or 90-minute broadcast that would replace local news and the current 30-minute "Nightly News" broadcast in the early evening at NBC affiliates around the country . . .
Instead, national and international stories from NBC would alternate with local news segments over the extended broadcasts . . .
Yesterday, NBC Chairman Grant Tinker dubbed the idea "just a gleam in the eye" and "very premature" . . .
"Right now," Tinker explained, "we're doing some homework about the possible evolution of our news presentation. Network news and local news are moving closer together and as that line blurs, this concept, which somebody called 'a newswheel,' is certainly something we should probably look at" . . .
Tinker emphasized however that "the idea has never been out of the building" . . .
NBC News President Larry Grossman said yesterday that "there's been no discussion outside of a few executives, not even with people at 'Nightly News' . . .
"The principle behind it is that right now local news programs do some national and international headlines on their broadcasts. But with our satellite capabilities, there's no reason we couldn't integrate the two programs, and Tom Brokaw could give the national and international stories and then the local news would come on for a while and then back to NBC . . . maybe for an hour, an hour-and-a-half each night" . . .
So early in the talking stages is the project, it's never been discussed with the network affiliates, who would need reassurance that they would lose no valuable commercial time in the changed format . . .
In sum, this particular alternative is several years away from becoming a reality, if adopted . . .
NBC -- this is kind of an NBC Day, TV Column fans -- announced yesterday that its Jan. 26 telecast of Super Bowl XX, during which the Chicago Bears trounced the New England Patriots 46-10, had the largest total TV audience in the game's history: 127 million viewers . . .
The previous record was the 115,800,000 viewers who watched the 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins 38-16 in Super Bowl XIX on ABC . . .