Networks presenting slimmer sweeps month


This is a lean and mean sweep month, the product of the slimmed-down networks as they face the slings and arrows of an outrageous economy.

If you're looking for a "Lonesome Dove," you're not going to find it this month. Indeed, the two multi-parters that will air aren't even long enough to be genuine miniseries, both just four-hours running over two nights.

"The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake," which might be the first TV production inspired by an amusement park ride -- the earthquake thriller at Universal Studios -- will be on NBC next Sunday and Monday. "Stephen King's It," a two-parter for ABC, based on a book by guess who, will go the next weekend.

Other than that, it's first-run series and a bunch of TV movies.

Patty Duke will star in her life story for ABC on "Call Me Anna" on Nov. 11. Mary Tyler Moore and Tony Curtis are in a black comedy about a wacky family, called "Thanksgiving Day," that's on NBC on Nov. 19. Rue McClanahan is a mother trying to heal the relationships with her daughters in another NBC movie, "To My Daughter," that will be on NBC on Nov. 26. Stuff like that.

Then there are the series stunts: Burt Reynolds shaving off his mustache on CBS' "Evening Shade" last Friday, the appearance by Vice President Quayle on CBS' "Major Dad" last night.

And Thursday, NBC's "Cheers" celebrates its 200th episode by gathering the cast for a talkfest about the sitcom with irascible John McLaughlin hosting for some reason.

So it's not a sweeps month for the ages. Actually, it seems to be an indication that the networks realize that both they and their affiliates are better off if they stop the silly thrice-a-year stunting to win a few weeks in the ratings and concentrate on developing a loyal audience that will still be there when December rolls around.

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