ABC's super-chick action show "Alias" has won the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot on Sunday, Jan. 26. This even though ABC is debuting several drama series the next night and you'd think the network would want to get one of them the Super-sized sampling that inevitably befalls whatever show lands the plum post-Super Bowl slot.
ABC suits made this decision after remembering that a) the last time a new show successfully launched after the Super Bowl was "The Wonder Years" in 1988 -- programs tend to do a gigantic number that night and crash and burn thereafter, b) more lasting benefits were had when older shows got the post-bowl treatment, including "Friends," "Malcolm in the Middle" and ABC's own "The Practice" and c) "Alias" creator J.J. Abrams had written a "kick-[heinie] episode" specifically for post-Super Bowl airing, as one ABC source put it.
ABC Entertainment chief Susan Lyne, on the other hand, put it this way, in a statement no less: "The episode that J.J. Abrams has written to air post-Super Bowl is a phenomenal hour of television, maybe the best hour of pure entertainment we've seen."
Plus, in another so-sensible-I-can't-believe-it's-ABC move, the alphabet net has decided not to air three new drama series on Monday nights after all but instead will move David E. Kelley's "The Practice" into Ally McBeal's old time slot, Mondays at 9 p.m., starting the night after the Super Bowl.
You'll remember that ABC had announced at the "upfront" presentations to advertisers in May that after football season, it would debut three drama series on Monday night: "Veritas" at 8, "Dragnet" at 9 and "Miracles" at 10. The last time a network successfully launched a whole night of prime-time programming is never.
The network shrewdly figured out that maybe fans of Kelley's 8 p.m. Fox drama "Boston Public" would change channels to ABC at 9 for Kelley's "The Practice," and that they might pick up some former fans of Fox's "Ally" as well. Plus, the move gives ABC an established show in the 9 p.m. slot; this is known as a "tentpole" in Network Scheduling 101.
And as if that's not enough, the ABC suits also figured out that if they put Dick Wolf's "Dragnet" remake into the Sunday 10 p.m. slot, starting Feb. 2, the show might snag a few Wolf fans who had just finished watching his "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" at 9 on NBC. Plus, the ABC lead-in for "Dragnet" will be "Alias," which of course will have millions and millions of new viewers following its post-Super Bowl broadcast.
John Miller, the co-anchor of ABC News's "20/20," is likely to leave the network to become top aide to new LAPD chief William Bratton, according to an ABC News source familiar with the talks.
Miller was Bratton's chief spokesman when Bratton headed the New York Police Department a decade ago; Miller's title then was deputy police commissioner of the New York City Police Department for public affairs, but he would not be in a PR or spokesman capacity at LAPD, according to the source.
Bratton was sworn in as L.A.'s police commissioner on Oct. 29. Discussions between Miller and the LAPD are said to be in their final stage.
"He made ABC aware of the interest from the LAPD some time ago and we gave our blessing . . . knowing John's passion for public service," an ABC News source told The TV Column.
"John is an extraordinary guy, people are crazy about him here at ABC News but everyone here understands his passion for this kind of work, and if that's what he wants no one here would stand in his way. Given the times we're living in, it's very noble for someone to want to set aside their [TV] career for public service."
The 44-year-old Miller, who recently wed heiress Emily Helen Altschul, was named Barbara Walters's co-anchor on "20/20" in January. He joined ABC News in October 1997 as a correspondent, covering legal news. In May 1998, as part of an ABC News investigation into global terrorism, Miller traveled to the mountains of Afghanistan for a rare interview with Osama bin Laden in which bin Laden threatened to launch attacks on U.S. civilians. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Miller contributed a number of exclusive reports about the criminal investigation and related topics, including never-before-seen footage from his bin Laden interview.
David Friend has been named head of business-day programming at CNBC. He replaces Bruno Cohen, the CNBC executive vice president for business news who resigned in August.
Friend joined the cable news network as executive producer in November 1997, overseeing production and development of its 5-to-10-a.m. programs.
He also developed "Early Today" for the NBC broadcast network. And he did a stint as executive producer at Warner Bros. of the syndicated show "Extra" before joining CNBC.
When Cohen left, CNBC was said to be having a tough time in the ratings, with a third-quarter prime-time average of 253,000 viewers and a total-day average of 283,000. Since Friend took over as interim head of business news after Cohen's departure, things have only gotten worse and now the network longs for those numbers.
Last month, for instance, CNBC's prime-time average plunged 48 percent compared with November 2001, an average of 216,000 viewers; for the total day the network dropped 23 percent to 215,000.
On both accounts, CNBC is now being beaten by CNN Headline News, which last month averaged 240,000 in prime time and 231,000 for the total day.
That said, CNBC is at least in good company. Headline News is also down compared with last November -- 30 percent in prime time and 24 percent in total day. Likewise, CNN is down 31 percent in prime time and 41 percent for total day; MSNBC dropped 44 percent in prime time and 49 percent for total day. Only Fox News Channel is up in year-to-year comparisons, by a slim 2 percent for the total day and 17 percent in prime time.
Channel 9 reporter Stacey Cohan will head up the station's newly formed investigative unit, WUSA management announced to its staff yesterday.
The I-team will debut in mid-January with a majority of its reports running on the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, according to a memo sent to staffers.
News Director Dave Roberts confirmed the announcement but declined to elaborate.
WUSA hopes to boost ratings on both newscasts. The station's 11 p.m. news moved up to second place this past November sweeps; it had ranked third in both the May ratings derby and last November's. WUSA's 6 p.m. newscast came in fourth last month, behind WRC, WJLA and two episodes of "The Simpsons" on WTTG.
The announcement comes less than a week after WUSA scrapped its consumer watch team, sending lead reporter Jan Fox back into the field.
WUSA management said in yesterday's memo that Cohan will be joined on the as-yet-unnamed unit by two station veterans, photographer Bill McKnight and producer Stephanie Wilson.
Cohan joined WUSA in August 1999 and reports for the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.
She previously was a weekend reporter for WRC.