You probably won’t see Showgirls, Part Deux. And don’t expect another installment of Michael Jackson’s HIStory. But at least one of last year’s most spectacular flops is getting a second chance. Starting June 5, CBS will air eight new episodes of Central Park West, the insanely hyped nighttime soap that was yanked last November in the face of dismal ratings.
More precisely, CBS will air new episodes of CPW, as the show is now called. And that’s not the only change. Originally designed as a Gen-X sudser about the glitzy world of New York magazine publishing, CPW has gotten a face-lift to appeal to a more mature audience — think Dynasty East instead of Manhattan Melrose. Out with Mariel Hemingway, who starred as the show’s glam editor. In with Major Dad’s Gerald McRaney, as a Southern media tycoon, and Raquel Welch as his jet-setting ex-wife, a character she describes as an ”incorrigible superbitch.”
”I was getting a lot of advice from my representatives not to do it,” says the 55-year-old Welch. ”But the character is a hoot, and it’s not like I’m getting every fabulous part that comes around in films.” The new episodes feature more casual costumes (expect some slacks and sweaters), a mellower soundtrack (think Bobby Short), and a lower hormone level (no more boyfriends tied to bedposts).
All of these changes reflect the new (or should we say old) CBS strategy for fall: a return to the network’s traditional, more mature viewer — the kind who keeps gentler, heartland shows like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman healthy. This is bad news for CPW creator Darren Star (he of Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210), who arrived at CBS thinking the network was turning young and funky. ”They kind of pulled the rug out from under me,” sighs Star. Nevertheless, he claims he’s on good terms with CBS. ”It gave me the opportunity to do two shows: Central Park West 1 and Central Park West 2.”
Yet, despite millions spent revamping the soap, it is glaringly absent from CBS’ fall schedule. Certainly McRaney would have a hard time juggling CPW with his starring role in the fall series Home of the Brave, a Touched by an Angel spin-off, also for CBS. Still, you can find a couple of optimists who believe that CPW could survive beyond August. They offer two nuggets of evidence. ”Remember M*A*S*H?” says Rainer Siek, president of CBS Enterprises, of the sitcom that premiered in the fall of 1972. ”It didn’t work at all until it started in the summer.” Moreover, the soap is going gangbusters in overseas markets such as Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain. ”I was just in Australia,” says Siek, ”and they said, ‘Can we do something with CPW if you don’t pick it up in the fall?’ I said, ‘Guys, why don’t you sit still. Let’s see what happens over the summer.”’
Hope springs eternal.