When is a CBS show not a CBS show? When ABC is rooting for its success.
That's the paradox posed by the year's strangest TV deal. When CBS airs its thriller Fugitive Among Us this season, the movie, which stars Peter Strauss and Eric Roberts, will come from ABC Productions. The transaction marks the first time that one network has produced a program for another. ''Unusual? It's man bites dog,'' says ABC Productions president Brandon Stoddard. ''But after this, the walls will come tumbling down.''
The Fugitive deal arose when ABC Productions bought Andrew Adelson Co., which was developing the film for CBS. Producer Adelson was surprised to find that ''when I asked NBC and CBS if they'd make movies wiht ABC Productions, they said yes.'' Such cross-pollination may become common as networks produce more of their own shows rather than licensing them from the studios. Last season, Stoddard says he was asked by then NBC chief Brandon Tartikoff to create a family series for NBC , and ABC Productions is developing other shows for CBS, Fox, HBO, and Lifetime. And if Fugitive is a ratings hit, who benefits more, ABC or CBS? ''I don't know,'' Stoddard says. ''But that night, ABC will make money from CBS' movie, which is a pretty good deal.''