CBS has ordered the "back nine" episodes on its two chick dramas, "Judging Amy" and "Family Law."
Not coincidentally, they are the two most watched new drama series of the 1999-2000 TV season. So far this season, "Judging Amy" ranks No. 13 with an average of 15.5 million viewers, and since its second broadcast, it's been winning its Tuesday 10 p.m. time slot.
"Family Law" ranks No. 16, right behind ABC's "Dharma & Greg," with an average of 14.8 million viewers. It consistently snares the most women in the Monday 10 p.m time slot, while the men are slogging through yet another "Monday Night Football."
Both shows have been instrumental to CBS taking the early lead in the new prime-time season.
Meanwhile over at NBC, they have finally ordered the back episodes on "The West Wing." The White House drama is averaging 14.3 million viewers so far this year, which is nearly 50 percent better than NBC was doing in the Wednesday time slot last year at this time. "The West Wing" has played a major role in pushing NBC from third to first place on that night.
Less easily understood is NBC's full-season order on new sitcom "Stark Raving Mad." "Mad" is the No. 1 new show of the season, but it airs in NBC's can't-miss Thursday time slot between "Frasier" and "ER" and is actually averaging about 2 million fewer viewers than "Veronica's Closet" was getting in the same slot last year at this time.
Back to Monday's TV Column lesson about how the networks bludgeon to death all successful programming ideas. Fox has bought three hours' worth of a quiz show called "Greed" to air during the November ratings sweeps--not coincidentally, the exact time that ABC has picked to return its wildly successful quiz show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
Fox's announcement comes just days after CBS announced that it had ordered a new game show called "Survivor," in which 16 people will be dumped on an island in the South China Sea to compete in tests of endurance for a $1 million prize. The project is slated to air in the summer.
Fox is rushing to get "Greed" on the air by Nov. 4--three days before "Millionaire" is scheduled to return. However, Fox still has so many unresolved issues--finalizing a contract with host Chuck Woolery, deciding whether the show will be a half-hour or an hour, etc.--that "Greed" may blow its start date, acknowledged a Fox suit.
But these days, with every studio dusting off its old game show franchises and pitching them to broadcast network suits, it's more important to get it first than to get it right.
"By the time there are five or six of them on the air, they won't be as special," explained Mike Darnell, the Fox executive in charge of specials. "By being second on the air with this, we could have an impact."
"Greed" has been described as a nasty "Family Feud." Nasty because, partway through each game, teammates are supposed to turn on one another to try to steal the $2 million pot.
"Greed" will air on three consecutive Thursdays at 9 p.m. If it's successful, it may continue and even become a series, Fox said.
"Greed" will be replacing two series on Fox's Thursday lineup that are doing miserably--the animated "Family Guy" and the Hollywood spoof "Action."
Which brings us back to yesterday's TV Column lesson--vertical integration.
Fox has announced that both half-hour shows are being yanked off the Thursday lineup. The guy-appeal shows have been getting the stuffing kicked out of them each week by UPN's "WWF Smackdown!"
There is no indication that UPN has any plans to move "Smackdown!" any time soon. And yet, Fox announced that "Action" will be back in its Thursday 9:30 p.m. time slot on Dec. 2--when it will presumably resume getting the stuffing kicked out of it by "WWF Smackdown!"
And what of "Family Guy"?
It will be brought back, but in a kinder, gentler time and hour, which has yet to be determined. There's some talk of holding it to put in the cushy post-"Simpsons" Sunday slot next spring, sources say.
Why the kid-glove treatment for "Family Guy" and not "Action"? Fox sources say it's because "Family Guy" has the same psychographic as UPN's faux wrestling show, while the psychographic on "Action" is much tonier and could therefore find a bigger audience on Thursday if it only had a better lead-in show.
Here's another theory: "Family Guy" is produced and owned by the Fox network's parent, 20th Century Fox. And 20th Century Fox also is shelling out some considerable coin to the show's creator as part of a deal to lock up his services on future projects.
"Action," on the other hand, is owned by Sony.
The Jefferson County, Colo., Sheriff's Department is calling for the return of all copies of a surveillance videotape from the Columbine High School shootings, the Associated Press reports.
According to the department, the grainy, jerky footage shown on CBS's evening newscast Tuesday came from an unauthorized copy of a CD-ROM. The copy was used in a presentation at a conference sponsored by the National Sheriffs' Association in Fort McClellan, Ala.
A county rep said it has not been determined who copied the CD-ROM. "CBS Evening News" and some of the network's affiliates Tuesday aired snippets of the tape that documented a few seconds of the April 20 rampage that left 15 people dead. The piece of videotape culled from a surveillance camera in the Columbine cafeteria shows a gunman kneeling in a rifleman's pose and firing across the scattered tables and chairs. No bodies are seen on the tape.
The footage was videotaped off a large projection screen at the training seminar for law enforcement and emergency workers by KRQE-TV, a CBS affiliate in Albuquerque.
The footage, originally used by sheriff's deputies in their investigation of the shootings, had been given to the Littleton Fire Department. The Jefferson County sheriff's office also provided the footage to police and emergency agencies to help with training.
The fire department made copies on CD-ROMs and passed them out to fire and police departments at a conference in Kansas City in August.
No surprise here: CBS finally announced that Julie Chen will be news reader and Jon Frankel is the national news correspondent for "The Early Show," which is set to debut in less than a month.
Chen has filled in as news anchor for "CBS Morning News" and "This Morning" since June. Before that, she was a reporter and anchor for the CBS-owned station in New York. Frankel has been a general-assignment reporter for ABC News since '98, reporting for "World News Tonight," "Nightline" and "Good Morning America." He's also been a sub anchor for "World News Now." The Washington, D.C., native also served as a correspondent for NBC's "Today" show.