NBC announced its fall schedule yesterday, and Barry Levinson's "Homicide" was not on it. Nor were "I'll Fly Away" and "Reasonable Doubts" -- two other hourlong, quality dramas.
But while NBC was describing the latter shows as being outright canceled yesterday, the network indicated there might still be hope for "Homicide" to return in midseason. The Wednesday night show about homicide detectives in Baltimore was filmed on location here and added an estimated $700,000 per episode into the local economy, according to the Maryland Film Commission.
" 'Homicide' is still under midseason consideration," said Curt Block, the network's vice president for publicity. "That does not mean it's a midseason replacement. It means they [NBC management] still have to make a call on it."
"Homicide" producer Barry Levinson could not be reached yesterday. But those at the network and in Hollywood's creative community said NBC's offer amounts to giving Levinson the chance to make a limited number of shows -- probably six -- which the network would use to fill programming holes.
It is an offer Levinson probably cannot afford to accept for economic reasons. Starting production for only six episodes is costly and ineffective. And it's nearly impossible to sign actors the stature of Ned Beatty, Yaphet Kotto and others in the ensemble cast for that short a run. Earlier this month, Levinson said he would likely refuse such a limited offer.
The ultimate reason for NBC's offer, network and creative sources said, is that the network hopes to avoid a firestorm of criticism for canceling such an acclaimed show. In this scenario, Levinson would be the one calling it quits.
And NBC is likely to catch more than enough flak for the cancellation of "I'll Fly Away" -- especially when viewers get a sense of what it lost out to, like the critically reviled show "I Witness Video," which the No. 3 network held onto.
Also canceled in yesterday's announcement was the reality show "Secret Service." Malcolm-Jamal Warner's "Here and Now," Rhythm & Blues" and "Out All Night" had been canceled earlier.
Among the 10 shows NBC added is "Getting By" -- the sitcom with Telma Hopkins and Cindy Williams, which ABC canceled earlier this week. Other additions announced yesterday include:
* "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" -- A spinoff of the Saturday morning teen favorite, which the cast outgrew. Instead of being set in high school, the series graduates to college.
* "Cafe Americain" -- Stars Valerie Bertinelli in Paris.
* "Frasier" -- "Cheers" spinoff with Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane.
* "The Mommies" -- Comedy about motherhood in the '90s.
* "The John Larroquette Show" -- The former star of "Night Court" plays the night manager of an urban bus station.
* "SeaQuest DSV" -- Futuristic, underwater action-adventure series from Steven Spielberg, stars Roy Scheider.
* "Against the Grain" -- Hourlong drama about a high school football coach in a small Texas town, from the producers of "Dallas."
* "The Second Half" -- Stand-up comedian John Mendoza stars as a divorced father who tries to adapt to his status as a weekday bachelor and weekend father.
NBC will also offer a Friday night mystery movie. Among the featured players in those films will be Raymond Burr (as Perry Mason), Larry Hagman and Kenny Rogers. The network also announced it will make an updated version of "Hart to Hart" to be presented as part of the Friday night movie lineup.