Bruce Fretts
October 29, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

BLUE IN THE FACE Steven Bochco is no stranger to controversy, but he didn’t court this one. When ABC Entertainment cochair Stu Bloomberg told the exec producer he was considering bumping NYPD Blue from its Tuesday-at-10 home in favor of current resident Once and Again, Bochco went ballistic. Before the season, the net reassured him Once would occupy the spot only temporarily, but with CBS competitor Judging Amy blossoming into a hit, Alphabet suits began to worry that bringing Blue back would drive even more female viewers to the Eye. ”It’s faulty reasoning,” argues Bochco. ”The fact is we have a very solid female constituency.” (At press time, ABC hadn’t made a final decision on Blue‘s fate and had no comment.)

What really ticked off Bochco was ABC’s lack of a plan for Blue. ”It would’ve been one thing if they’d said, ‘Here’s where we’re going to put you, here’s how we’re going to promote you, and just to show you we do believe in the show, we’re going to pick it up for next season,”’ says Bochco. Without such a show of support, ”how can I reach any conclusion other than that you’re writing us off?”

The livid exec producer asked ABC to cancel Blue so he could sell it to another network, and NBC Entertainment prez Garth Ancier immediately offered Dateline NBC’s Tuesday slot. ”Maybe that’d work better,” says Bochco. ”We haven’t had a decent lead-in in a long time, and we might get a little help in that department.” (Last season, Blue aired after ABC’s weak Sports Night.)

Bochco’s convinced the real reason ABC is giving Once preferential treatment is that the net owns the show and has sold it into syndication to corporate cousin Lifetime Television. ”I guarantee you: If ABC owned NYPD Blue, none of this would be happening,” says Bochco, who filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox Films (Blue’s distributor) for selling Blue reruns on the cheap to its cable outlet FX. Bochco may have burned his bridges with ABC but says, ”I thought this conduct was wrong. You can’t tell me you’ve given up on my show and not expect to get a hell of a fight.”

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