Up Against the Wahl
Right now, Wiseguy is in about the same condition as its main characters: not dead, but on the critical list. CBS remains silent about the show's future, but Jim Byrnes, who plays Lifeguard, says, ''We can't go back to being the way we were. Ken (Wahl, the star and one of Wiseguy's producers) insists on making the work load more even between the three characters.'' That could be an unwise move: Ratings are dropping, and McPike (Jonathan Banks) ended the season in a hospital bed with probable brain damage. If Wiseguy makes it to a fourth year, it also must shop for a new supervising producer. David Burke has decided to move on.
With an overcrowded spring lineup, the networks are wasting no time in dropping their flops. NBC revived its police drama True Blue with a two-parter, looked at the abysmal ratings for part one, and decided viewers had seen enough. And ABC's Sunset Beat was ''put on hiatus'' as soon as the ratings came in for its two-hour premiere.
If you're ever amazed at what the networks think will make a good series, imagine what they reject. For the book Unsold Television Pilots: 1955 through 1988, Lee Goldberg has ransacked tube history for 2,269 ideas nobody wanted. The ''best'':
905-WILD, about a task force that battles law-breaking animals
A law drama called Two Young Men and a Girl in a Meat Grinder
One Embezzlement and Two Margaritas, about the exploits of an insurance investigator
Hotshot Harry and the Rocking Chair Renegades, about adventures in a retirement home
Ethel Is an Elephant, featuring a New York photographer and his born-with-a- trunk roommate
The Invisible Woman, a variation on you-know-what
The Countess and the Cowboy, about an Italian noblewoman who moves to Nevada to run a ranch.
Back to the Beat
When NBC's Hunter begins a seventh season next fall, the title character will take on a new assignment. As a metro street officer, he'll face everything from gangs to SWAT team work. ''In the past year, we might have gotten a little bit too dry and strict,'' says Fred Dryer, Hunter's star and executive producer. ''The entertainment value has been defused.'' The new Hunter will offer ''more action'' and ''80 to 85 percent accuracy in terms of police work,'' he says. ''I'll be the one who decides what we bend to make it more exciting.'' Who will play his new partner? Dryer's not saying.
With Pat Sajak gone, CBS is quietly lining up fall prospects for original late-night shows, and may be ready to try something unusual..One nontraditional pilot has finished shooting in New York: Nothing Upstairs, created by Alan King, will place comics Judy Tenuta, Paul Provenza, Dennis Wolfberg, and Bob Nelson in a comedy club, and include taped segments and short films.