'Homicide' fans hold breath: fate may be decided Monday


"Homicide" officially goes into limbo tonight when "L.A. Law" returns to the NBC schedule. But the drama about Baltimore homicide detectives might not be in limbo long.

Tom Fontana, co-producer of the series, said yesterday that he and partner Barry Levinson have been called to Burbank, Calif., to meet with NBC officials on Monday.

"All I can say is that I'm going out there with Barry to meet with Don Ohlmeyer and Warren Littlefield to talk about the future of the show," Fontana said yesterday in a phone interview. "They want to talk. They're being very positive, but that in no way implies that they've renewed the show."

Ohlmeyer is NBC's West Coast president, and Littlefield is president of the entertainment division -- NBC's top two programmers. Network sources say it seems unlikely they would be calling in Levinson and Fontana to give them bad news.

Either way, the fate of "Homicide" will be known by Feb. 15, Fontana said yesterday. If NBC does not act by that date, they lose all actors in the cast because that's when their contracts expire.

Ohlmeyer and Littlefield told TV critics in California last month that NBC's decision would be based on the ratings for "Homicide" during its four-week run, which ended last Thursday.

The ratings started out spectacularly, with a 17.3 rating and 28 share the first week for an episode featuring Robin Williams. Last week's ratings were an 11.5 rating and 19 share.

Littlefield refused to set a minimum rating that the show had to achieve, but sources said the network expects about a 12 rating and 22 share for the 10 o'clock time period on its best night of the week.

While it's close, the ratings performance of "Homicide" appears to be good enough to win renewal -- especially since last Thursday's final episode showed a 10 percent increase in young adult demographics over the week before.

As for his feelings about the ratings, Fontana said, "I love them if they get us renewed. I hate them if they don't."

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