The closest ratings race in 25 years just ended, but with the announcements of their 1991 fall schedules, the networks are preparing for round 2. NBC will try to make it seven years in a row at the top of the Nielsens. Second-place ABC will attempt to take the ratings crown with a comedy-heavy lineup. And CBS Entertainment president Jeff Sagansky has already predicted with uncharacteristic bravado that his network, which will telecast the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the Winter Olympics next season, will finish first. Fox, meanwhile, will try to outsmart the Big Three by launching some series in July.
Network television’s new bottom-line climate is reflected in the fall slates, which are heavy on easy-to-syndicate comedies and cheap-to-produce reality shows. What’s missing? Serious dramas, which are dwindling to near-extinction, and high concepts: Don’t expect any singing cops or talking logs in September’s new entries.
A few years ago, sitcoms were in danger of disappearing; next fall, viewers will see no fewer than 50, the most in TV history. And many of the newcomers will be filled with kids. The premise of Step by Step should satisfy Brady Bunch lovers: Two single parents (Suzanne Somers and Patrick Duffy) meet, marry, and move their three boys and three girls into one big house. Another big suburban brood, The Torkelsons, lives on poverty’s edge; viewers will meet the clan through the wry eyes of 14-year-old Dorothy (Olivia Burnette). NBC’s fantasy-adventure Eerie, Indiana will also offer a teen’s-eye view of small-town life, courtesy of a 13-year-old former city dweller (Dallas’ Omri Katz) who believes that the community his family has moved to is actually Blue Velvet-ville. CBS’ The Royal Family features Redd Foxx and Della Reese as a couple whose lives are disrupted when their grandchildren move in. And a posh boarding school is the setting of Teech, in which a black music teacher tries to take the sting out of his hostile WASP pupils.