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Sunday, January 12, 2014

WEEKEND REWIND: CBS 1996-97 Season

CBS 1996-97
CBS had a disastrous season in 1995-96 as only 2 of their 17 new shows lived to see a second season, and neither one of those shows were big success stories. On top of that, some hits like Murphy Brown and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman were showing their age and they said goodbye to Murder, She Wrote after 12 years. CBS badly needed new hits. In 1996-97, they got a couple shows that were instantly better starters than the previous season but it was two quietly starting Friday shows, one a steal from NBC, that really started to set the network in a new direction to where they are today. Check out my Weekend Rewind from ABC 1996-97.

(Sep 16-Oct 14)
8:00 Cosby
8:30 Pearl
9:00 Murphy Brown
9:30 Cybill
10:00 Chicago Hope

(Oct 21-Feb 24)
8:00 Cosby
8:30 Ink
9:00 Murphy Brown
9:30 Cybill
10:00 Chicago Hope

(Mar 3-Apr 14)
8:00 Cosby
8:30 Everybody Loves Raymond
9:00 Cybill
9:30 Ink
10:00 Chicago Hope (Mar 10-Apr 7)

(Apr 21-May 19)
8:00 Cosby (starting Apr 28) 
8:30 Murphy Brown (starting Apr 28)
9:00 Cybill
9:30 Ink
10:00 Chicago Hope
CBS had to revamp Monday nights after their comedy block saw four new comedies flop over the course of the previous season. They brought back a couple previous sitcom stars to help repair the night. Leading off the night was the return of Bill Cosby to TV after his mega NBC hit The Cosby Show. In the new Cosby, he brought back his former TV wife Phylicia Rashad. The show was a success and stabilized CBS Mondays but it wasn't the game changing hit CBS may have hoped for as it only had a modest four year run. Two shows got the benefit of following Cosby. First was a five week preview for Pearl before that show settled in on Wednesdays. Pearl brought another NBC star to CBS in Rhea Perlman and she was paired for Malcolm McDowell. The show did well enough on Mondays but started to slip when it was sent to Wednesdays. CBS may have been better off leaving it on Mondays because it's replacement did not work out. Ink brought a third NBC star to the network in Ted Danson. He starred with his wife Mary Steenburgen in this romantic/workplace comedy. It was one of those shows that went through re-writes and overhauls. It lasted the full season but that was it. Murphy Brown, Cybill, and Chicago Hope rounded out the night but they were slowing down in the ratings. In February, Murphy Brown was sent on hiatus, which was a big move for a show that had spent nearly a decade as the Monday night anchor. It was replaced by a future anchor. Everybody Loves Raymond had some buzz but was languishing in a bad Friday night slot. It moved to Mondays at midseason and slowly but surely became a hit for the network and it eventually became the comedy anchor. After Raymond ended its season, Murphy Brown came back for a couple weeks but it was headed to Wednesday for the next year, which ended up being its last.

8:00 Promised Land
9:00 Tuesday Night Movie
"Promised Land"
Tuesday night had long been the home of Rescue: 911 and a movie. Then in 1995-96, they tried a new drama with The Client but that only lasted a season. They tried yet a new drama this year and it was a little more successful, running three years. Promised Land was a spinoff of the hit drama Touched by an Angel and it had a similar gentle feel. Starring Gerald McRaney and Celeste Holm, the show centered on a family traveling cross country and spreading good deeds. It was one of the many shows on CBS in the 1990s that contributed to the network being regarded as an network for older people.

(Sep 18-Oct 23)
8:00 The Nanny
8:30 Almost Perfect
9:00 Various Programming

(Oct 30)
8:00 The Nanny
8:30 Pearl
9:00 Almost Perfect
9:30 Public Morals
10:00 EZ Streets

(Nov 6-Dec 25)
8:00 The Nanny
8:30 Pearl
9:00 Wednesday Night Movie

(Jan 8-Feb 19)
8:00 The Nanny
8:30 Pearl
9:00 Various Programming
10:00 Orleans (through Jan 29)

(Mar 5-Apr 9)
8:00 The Nanny
8:30 Temporarily Yours
9:00 Feds
10:00 EZ Streets (through Apr 2)

(Apr 16-May 21)
8:00 The Nanny
8:30 Dave's World (Apr 30-May 7)
9:00 Wednesday Night Movie (starting Apr 23)
"EZ Streets"
Wednesday night was the messiest night of the season for CBS. Their original plan for the night lasted all of one week at the end of October. It had a delayed start as CBS just ran The Nanny and Almost Perfect in the 8pm hour in yet another attempt to kick start a comedy lineup on Wednesdays. Specials, movies, and presidential debates followed until October 30 when the new lineup fully took effect. Pearl had moved over from its special Monday run to follow The Nanny. Almost Perfect moved to 9pm and the new Steven Bochco comedy Public Morals took the 9:30pm slot. Gritty new drama EZ Streets had a two hour premiere and then took claim to the 10pm slot. After one week, CBS abandoned the lineup, keeping only The Nanny and Pearl. Almost Perfect got cancelled after just airing a couple episodes into its second season. Public Morals became one of the infamous one and done shows as CBS cancelled the controversial and critically savaged Morals after just one episode. EZ Streets was also pulled with promises that it would return in the spring. After a movie took the 9-11pm slots, CBS tried a new drama in January with Orleans, which brought Dallas star Larry Hagman back to TV in a much kinder role than JR Ewing. It only lasted a few episodes on Wednesdays and was burned off on Fridays. In March, a brand new lineup started with just The Nanny staying in place as it was the only constant all season. A new sitcom joined it as Pearl had been cancelled and burned off its final four episodes in June. Temporarily Yours was just here temporarily as the Debi Mazar sitcom lasted just for its six week midseason run. It was followed by two dramas - Feds, a short lived crime drama, and the relaunch of EZ Streets. The relaunch didn't fare any better and the show was cancelled after just a few weeks. At the very end of the season, CBS brought back former Wednesday show Dave's World to finish up its modest four year run. So it was back to the drawing board on Wednesdays except for The Nanny.

8:00 Diagnosis: Murder
9:00 Moloney (through Apr 17)
10:00 48 Hours
Thursdays stayed constant all year but it wasn't a really successful night. It just did enough to survive against NBC's slaughterhouse of a Must See TV lineup. CBS went for an older appeal and it largely worked for them for the season. At 8pm was Diagnosis: Murder which was now airing in the slot that Murder, She Wrote has the previous year and probably appealing to a very similar crowd. It was paired with Moloney, which was also a hybrid medical/crime drama like Diagnosis starring Peter Strauss. It nearly lasted a full season as it ended in April, but it was not renewed for a second season and CBS opted to move Promised Land over to this night. All season long, 48 Hours occupied the 10pm slot.

(Sep 20-Dec 20)
8:00 Dave's World
8:30 Everybody Loves Raymond
9:00 Mr. and Mrs. Smith (through Nov 22)
10:00 Nash Bridges

(Jan 3-Mar 7)
8:00 Dave's World
8:30 Everybody Loves Raymond (through Feb 28)
9:00 JAG
10:00 Nash Bridges

(Mar 28-May 2)
8:00 JAG (through Apr 18)
9:00 Orleans (through Apr 11)
10:00 Nash Bridges
"Everybody Loves Raymond"
Friday nights didn't really work in 1996-97 but two TV series that aired on this night really helped to change CBS' fortunes. At the beginning of the season, CBS decided to try a new comedy block on Friday by bringing over Dave's World from Wednesday and pairing it with another dad-centered family sitcom called Everybody Loves Raymond. Raymond wasn't given much of a chance despite some critical acclaim and it started out rocky on Fridays. But luckily CBS realized the gem they had and they quickly moved it to Monday in midseason where it became their biggest comedy hit since Murphy Brown. The other show that helped changed the fortunes for CBS was JAG, which had been cancelled by NBC after one season in 1995-96. It was picked up by CBS and aired at midseason. JAG was eventually moved to Tuesdays where it lasted until 2005. While it was a decent performer, CBS really proved NBC made a mistake when it spun off JAG to create NCIS in 2003, which is still the most watched drama on TV in 2014. And that show spun off NCIS: Los Angeles which is now in its fifth season. So it all dates back to JAG which CBS quietly picked up from NBC and no one thought much of it at the time, but it helped to create the procedural dramas that CBS is famous for now. A few other shows aired on Friday nights too: Nash Bridges had a successful second season at 10pm while espionage drama Mr. and Mrs. Smith quickly failed at 9pm in the fall and Orleans burned off some episodes in the spring. But this night was all about the shows that Raymond and the JAG franchise became.

8:00 Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
9:00 Early Edition
10:00 Walker, Texas Ranger
"Early Edition"
Saturday nights stayed the same yet again this season but a new show moved to the 9pm slot. The bookends once again were Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Walker, Texas Ranger though Dr. Quinn wasn't getting the numbers it was early in its run. The new drama was Early Edition, a unique drama starring Kyle Chandler as a man who gets the next day's newspaper and tries to stop problems before they happen. The show had a quiet but decent four year run on Saturday nights. Saturday nights were another night for older dramas, like Thursday nights, and Early Edition fit right in.

7:00 60 Minutes
8:00 Touched by an Angel
9:00 Sunday Night Movie
CBS had Murder, She Wrote in the 8pm slot for a decade before trying the ill-advised comedy block in 1995-96. But they got back to the dramas and turned Touched by an Angel into a huge hit by moving it to the family friendly Sunday 8pm slot. After barely surviving its first year and then growing into a successful show on Saturday, the show became a top 10 hit and had a nice run on Sunday nights. Long time staples 60 Minutes and the Sunday Night Movie continued to round out the night as the Sunday entries were the top three rated shows for CBS.

CBS 1996-97 Stats

Shows in the Top 30
10. Touched by an Angel
11. 60 Minutes
14. Sunday Night Movie
21. Cosby
23. Walker, Texas Ranger
30. Chicago Hope/Cybill

Fall Shows Survival: 4/10 (40%)
Everybody Loves Raymond, Cosby, Promised Land, Early Edition

Midseason Shows Survival: 0/3 (0%)

Total New Shows Survival Rate: 4/13 (31%)

Cancelled/Ended Series
Dave's World (4 seasons)
Almost Perfect (2 seasons)
Pearl/Moloney/Mr. and Mrs. Smith/Ink/EZ Streets/Public Morals/Orleans/Temporarily Yours/Feds (1 season)

Emmy Award Nominees & Winners (Major Categories)
Chicago Hope (Nominee, Outstanding Drama Series)
Roma Downey, Touched by an Angel (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
Christine Lahti, Chicago Hope (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
Fran Drescher, The Nanny (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)
Cybill Shepherd, Cybill (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)
Hector Elizondo, Chicago Hope (WINNER, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)
Adam Arkin, Chicago Hope (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)
Della Reese, Touched by an Angel (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)
Christine Baranski, Cybill (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series) 

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