WE HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY AND IT IS US: TV-industry pundits like to point to the networks’ inability to successfully launch more than two new shows a season as the cause of viewer erosion to cable. Perhaps, but even when the nets do score a hit, it can come back to haunt them. Take FX. The cable net’s airing of The X-Files and NYPD Blue reruns during prime time has produced spectacular results: the best ratings ever for FX and for premieres of network reruns on cable in general (Files claimed 1.7 million viewers; Blue scored a million). While that isn’t much in a total TV universe of 97 million homes (or compared with what Files and Blue did last season on Fox and ABC — 18.3 million and 17.4 million respectively), start factoring in all the other network reruns filling cable’s schedules, and it quickly adds up to major competition for the Big Four. And it’s only going to get worse: With cable’s original shows barely making a ratings blip, TNT, USA (which didn’t renew The Big Easy), FX, and Lifetime are increasingly turning to the syndication of network dramas, spending up to $1 million per episode. What’s more, cable has hardly made a grab for sitcoms yet. We’ve seen the damage Seinfeld reruns can do on local stations; heck, it might end up being the one show that can beat itself on NBC’s Must See Thursdays.
BRETT UNDER FIRE: More problems on the set of Carsey-Werner’s Grace Under Fire. Sources report that star Brett Butler’s erratic behavior has once again de layed production on the show, which ABC had taken off the fall schedule with the intention of reviving it for mid-season. According to the sources, she’s back in rehab (Butler checked in last October for what she described as an addiction to painkillers). Carsey-Werner did not return calls.
AND SO ON… Luke Perry will develop a series for ABC; no doubt the Alphabet liked his guest spot on its Spin City…. Seinfeld’s Wayne Knight (Newman), meanwhile, has inked a development deal with Carsey-Werner, home to his second job, 3rd Rock From the Sun. You may recall the hefty actor had a similar deal in 1995 at Warner Bros. that hasn’t got off the ground. (We’ll avoid the obvious joke.)