CBS' relies on names, family hour

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Stressing big-name talent and a "family-friendly" hour of television each night at 8, CBS yesterday announced a fall schedule that the network hopes will lift it out of last place next season.

But to accomplish that feat CBS will have to win large numbers of younger viewers -- not an easy task for a schedule that includes renewals for series like "Diagnosis Murder," which has one of the oldest audiences in television, and new series featuring such stars as Bill Cosby, Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, Peter Strauss, Scott Bakula, Ken Olin and Gerald McRaney, who all appeal primarily to viewers of the baby boom generation and older.

"This is a lineup with star power," Leslie Moonves, the CBS entertainment president, said yesterday. "At the same time, we've heard our viewers call for family-friendly programming. We've answered with a lineup of great 8 o'clock series for the whole family to enjoy together."

The lineup will feature five new comedies and five new dramas.

The biggest big-name, 8 o'clock sitcom is "Cosby," which will feature Cosby as a cranky retiree railing against almost everything. Phylicia Rashad returns as his wife. To make room for "Cosby" Mondays at 8, CBS will move "The Nanny" to Wednesdays at 8.

Following "Cosby" at 8: 30 on Mondays will be "Ink," a sitcom starring Danson and wife, Mary Steenburgen, as a recently divorced couple who work together on a daily newspaper in New York. In the pilot, she becomes his boss.

"Pearl" is a sitcom about an older woman from the working class (Perlman) who returns to college at a prestigious Eastern university where she encounters a stuffy professor (Malcolm McDowell). It will air at 8: 30 Wednesdays after "The Nanny."

Also airing Wednesday will be "Public Morals," a sitcom about life on the vice squad of the New York police department. The big names here are behind the camera -- producers Steven Bochco and Baltimore native Jay Tarses.

"Everybody Loves Raymond," a sitcom starring stand-up comic Ray Romano, will lead off Fridays at 8 for CBS. Romano plays a "dad in a chaotic household of the '90s," CBS says.

The new dramas:

"Home of the Brave," is a spinoff of "Touched By an Angel." It stars McRaney as the head of a family forced to hit the road to stay together after he loses his job. It will air Tuesdays at 8.

"EZ Streets" stars Olin and Jason Gedrick as a cop and ex-con whose lives intersect. Wednesdays at 10.

"Moloney" features Strauss as a police psychiatrist. Thursdays at 9.

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith" is about investigators working for a corporation that specializes in spying and detection. It stars Bakula and Maria Bello. Fridays at 9.

"Early Edition" offers Kyle Chandler as a man who wakes up to find tomorrow's newspaper on his doorstep. He tries to use this futuristic knowledge for good deeds. Saturdays at 9.

The only two new series to be renewed were "Nash Bridges" and "Almost Perfect." Both newsmagazines, "60 Minutes" and "48 Hours," will be back. One of the more interesting scheduling shifts will find "Touched By an Angel," a ratings-winner, moving to Sundays at 8 after "60 Minutes."

As for network-hopping, the only series CBS picked up from elsewhere is "JAG," which will move from NBC to midseason, backup status at CBS.

The schedule announced yesterday is a near-total repudiation of the strategy Moonves championed last fall, which involved blowing off older viewers in favor of youth. Gone are such shows as "Central Park West," which were targeted at young viewers. Moonves also did an about-face on the move to adult fare at 8 o'clock with the likes of Andrew Dice Clay's "Bless This House."

"Each series is a building block to broaden our viewer base, encouraging our current viewers to stay, inviting our traditional viewers to return and bringing new viewers to the party," Moonves said yesterday.

Pub Date: 5/23/96

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