Barry Levinson is battling to keep "Homicide" alive in the face of some of the worst scheduling luck imaginable. And there's more bad news tonight right here in his own hometown.
Since its successful debut after the NBC telecast of Super Bowl XXVII, the series has been pre- empted once and gone head-to-head against some of network TV's toughest competition at 9 p.m. Wednesdays.
Last week, despite a critically acclaimed episode featuring Moses Gunn, the series scored its lowest ratings to date -- a 7.6 rating and 12 share. It finished not only behind "The American Comedy Awards" on ABC, but also behind "Melrose Place" on Fox for the first time.
In an effort to buck up the show's ratings, Levinson took to the airwaves this weekend in a 20-second promotional spot on NBC. the commercial, Levinson makes a direct appeal to viewers to watch his show about homicide detectives in Baltimore.
After introducing himself, Levinson asks, "If you're wondering when we're on, remember the Michael Jackson special? We were opposite that. And when the president spoke? Preempted for it. And the Grammys? You got it -- we were opposite that.
"So where are we, exactly? Well there's a show called 'Home Improvement' -- and as soon as you get there, then quickly switch to NBC."
Tonight's episode, which features the squad's only female detective (played by Melissa Leo), is considered one of the series' best.
But viewers in Baltimore won't see it unless they can pick it up out of Washington or there's rain in Florida. WMAR (Channel 2), the NBC affiliate in Baltimore, plans to carry its first Baltimore Orioles' exhibition baseball game of the season tonight. Unless the game is rained out, viewers in Baltimore will see Leo Gomez instead of Ms. Leo & Co.
Channel 2 will air the episode at a later date -- Sunday at 2 a.m. That's right, 2 a.m., just the right time for those folks getting home after the bars close Saturday night.
"It's the only time we have available," Emily Barr, director of broadcast operations at Channel 2, said in explaining the scheduling.
"Oh, my God, you're kidding," Rosemary O'Brien, spokeswoman for NBC, said when she was told of the show's rescheduling in Levinson's hometown. "What can I say?"
O'Brien said NBC is still high on the series and that all the episodes NBC has will be broadcast. The series ends its run March 31.