The producers of Home Improvement, Wings, and Coach can take their eyes off the ratings and relax awhile. These hit series — along with Full House and Murder, She Wrote — are the latest to sign plum multiseason renewal deals with the networks, guaranteeing that they’ll stay on the air till at least 1995 no matter which way the Nielsens go.
Multiseason renewal contracts used to be rare on network TV — a single-season, 22-episode agreement has been the norm — but in 1992 Fox broke the mold by renewing Beverly Hills, 90210 with a two-season, 60-episode contract. Last year, CBS picked up Evening Shade and Northern Exposure for two seasons each, NBC gave Empty Nest a two-season contract, and ABC did the same with Roseanne. This year, ABC upped the ante by offering Home Improvement a three-season renewal contract.
”These deals give you security of scheduling,” says Stu Bloomberg, executive vice president for prime time at ABC Entertainment, ”You know you’ll have a hit series for X number of years.” But, he adds, the deals do come with risks. ”Shows with a cast member who’s getting too old, or shows you just know are cresting downward — you don’t want to make a two-year commitment to that.”
The double-dose contracts are a double-edged blessing for producers as well. ”The upside is that if you make a couple of mistakes, you know you’re not going to get axed,” says Northern Exposure executive producer Joshua Brand. ”On the other hand, there’s a danger of complacency because you’re not fighting for survival every episode.”