It looks as if the IMF has cracked its last case on ABC’s revival of Mission: Impossible. The series has been put on hiatus (the network’s land of the living dead) after a two-year run. Originally conceived as a way to use old scripts to make new shows during the writers’ strike that delayed the 1988-89 season, Mission: Impossible started strong but fell quickly and ranks 89th among prime-time shows this season. Also off the air, but given a better chance of returning, is CBS’ Doctor, Doctor, which ranks 61st.
Going for the Gold
Sit on your couch and stare at the TV — no, make that three TVs — all day and all night for a week, and you still won’t have seen all of the longest single-event program in history. After paying $401 million for the broadcast rights, NBC plans to offer cable pay-per-view audiences 600 hours of ‘92 Summer Olympics coverage, using three channels to show different events simultaneously. NBC and Cablevision will charge one fee (up to $150) for the pay-per-view Gamess which will supplement 160 hours of Olympics on the network.
Courage Is a Five-Letter Word
With a set of gay characters, a tiny $12,000-per-episode budget, and just two segments each month, Secret Passions, appearing on public-access TV since January, is no ordinary soap opera, but producer David Gadberry says mainstream soaps weren’t offering the story lines he wanted to see. ”The networks haven’t dealt with gay characters,” says Gadberry, whose series has drawn fire from the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association. ”It takes a lot of courage — spelled B-A-L-L-S — to do a show like this.” Reports that Coors, long a target of protests by gay activists, might sign on as a sponsor are premature, but a Coors spokeswoman would not rule it out.
Her Dallas days are over, but Victoria Principal will return to series television next fall in an hour-long drama to be produced by Aaron Spelling for ABC. The still-untitled show, once known as Chicago, is now set in Los Angeles, and will feature Principal as an investigator for the L.A. district attorney’s office and a single mother to a teenage girl. Production will begin this month.
These may be dark days for Donald Trump, but even as news of his divorce clogs the headlines, plans for Trump the Media Sensation are proceeding rapidly. Warner Bros. Television plans to move ahead with its game show Trump Card, unworried that the Don’s TVQ scores, a measure of audience popularity, are rock-bottom (even lower than those for Pat Sajak). TNT, meanwhile, says that its docudrama The Donald Trump Story is still in the works for 1991. And, after the eight-or nine-figure divorce settlement is hammered out, Trump may even have a new steady waiting in the wings. ”I would sleep with Donald Trump for that kind of money,” talk-show host Arsenio Hall told his audience recently, ”and I would let him betray me.” How’s that for the art of the deal?
A Really Big Show
Wanted: 600 pounds of sizzle, to be divided among three ladies. 20th Century Fox Television has put out a casting call for ”big, beautiful, and funny” women to fill the starring roles in Babes, a comedy pilot. The requirements include a great sense of humor, sex appeal, and at least 200 pounds of avoirdupois.
No Laughing Matter
VH-1, the mellow-music sister to MTV, is dropping comedy programming from its lineup and sending it over to HA!, the comedy channel that’s due on cable systems April 1. In a plan to refocus on music specials, VH-1 will keep the comedy-and-music series Leifer Madness, but it reportedly plans to drop Rosie O’Donnell’s Stand-Up Spotlight and its short comedy films. The baby-boomer gab-and-gripe-fest The Whole Enchilada also is disappearing from the VH-1 schedule, because of low ratings.
Knot Over Yet
Knots Landing, the most popular of CBS’ warhorse prime-time soaps, will return next fall for a 12th season with its cast largely intact, Lawrence Kasha, the show’s co-executive producer, says. Shedding some light on the show’s whirlwind plotting, Kasha explains that Knots’ producers and writers ”use focus groups constantly (to test characters),” and scripts can change quickly when something isn’t working. A recent example: ”People thought that we’d made Gary Ewing (Ted Shackelford) too much of a wuss. We corrected that.”
Hammer and Sickle
The fortunes of two Russian families over the last century will be the subject of Mother Russia, a 10-hour HBO miniseries scheduled for 1992. Budgeted at $23 million, the drama will attempt ”to have Americans experience who the Russians are for the first time,” says co-executive producer Derek Hart, who plans to shoot the film in the Soviet Union next year. Industrialist Armand Hammer will coproduce Mother Russia, which will begin before the Russian Revolution and include events as recent as the Chernobyl disaster; if negotiations with Gorky Film Studios are successful, the film will air in the Soviet Union as well.
Two new series will vie for young adult viewers in the crowded late-night field. ABC has settled on L.A. radio personality Rick Dees as its best hope in the wee hours; his comedy-variety series Into the Night will appear weeknights after Nightline, beginning July 16. And in September, My Talk Show, a sendup of local community programming that Joe Flaherty (the beloved Guy Caballero of SCTV) will produce, begins airing in syndication.