Imagine for a moment you're a member of the cast or crew of the NBC sitcom "Frasier."
One day, you're happy as can be. Your show, a darling of the critics, has been a fixture in the Top 10 all season long.The next day, NBC execs announce their fall schedule and you discover that, come the fall, you're going to have to go up against ABC heavyweight (no pun intended) "Roseanne" - one of the few shows to get higher ratings than yours last season.
And you're going to have to do it on "Roseanne's" home turf - Tuesday nights.
It comes as no surprise that no one associated with "Frasier" has been talking about how pleased they were to see NBC's new schedule.
At first glance, it seems the folks at NBC must be nuts.
At second glance, they still look nuts.
But what they're hoping is that "Roseanne" is vulnerable. That ABC's Tuesday night lineup is vulnerable. (NBC is also moving Thursday-night hit "Wings" to Tuesdays at 7 p.m.)
Chances are, they're wrong. And "Frasier" is going to get hurt in the process.
Not killed, but hurt. Maybe badly.
"Roseanne" vs. "Frasier" is but one of the intriguing network battles in the war for ratings supremacy that have been set up by the four networks fall schedule announcments. Here's a look at a few others.
- Sundays at 7 p.m.: The overall winner will remain CBS' "Murder, She Wrote," but that show appeals to an older, less lucrative audience. The battle for the younger audiences will be vicious.
ABC's "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" and NBC's "seaQuest, DSV" battled each other to a near standstill in that time slot this past season. Now Fox is moving "The Simpsons" here in the fall, and it may kill one or both of those shows - or finally force either ABC or NBC to move one of them to a new time slot.
- Mondays at 7 p.m.: ABC and Fox are sensing vulnerability on the part of CBS. They're like sharks in the water, smelling the blood from CBS' aging shows.
ABC is moving the hit "Coach" here in what would seem a perfect match with "Monday Night Football." (In this time zone, however, "Coach" and the sitcom that follows it, "Blue Skies," won't be seen until Sunday afternoons.)
In a move that seems crazy at first glance, Fox is moving one of its few hits - "Melrose Place" - to this time slot. But in this case, at second glance it just might work.
CBS has a new Hal Linden/Suzanne Pleshette sitcom, "The Boys Are Back," here in the fall. It seems aimed at an older audience.
NBC has the youth-appeal "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." ABC has the male-appeal "Coach" or football.
So "Melrose," which appeals larger to a highly desirable, relatively young female demographic, could be perfect counterprogramming, and give Fox a foothold on Monday nights.
- Thursdays at 9 p.m.: You probably can't find anyone who doesn't think that ABC's "PrimeTime Live" won't continue to finish first in this time slot. The question is, who will finish second?
Both CBS and NBC have scheduled medical dramas here. CBS has "Chicago Hope," from Emmy-winning writer/producer David E. Kelley ("L.A. Law," "Picket Fences") - who might just be the most talented writer working in television today.
NBC has "E.R.," produced by best-selling author Michael Crichton.
Is there room for two medical dramas in this time slot. No.
And it's possible that neither will survive the battle.
- Wednesdays at 7 p.m.: The Big Three networks have three rather iffy propositions in this time slot facing one of Fox's few genuine hits, "Beverly Hills, 90210."
ABC has "Thunder Alley," which was a hit this spring - when it was sandwiched between two episodes of top-rated "Home Improvement." It's not a very good show.
CBS has "The Nanny," which is a pretty good show but has never demonstrated much ratings strength.
And NBC is banking on the return of Bill Cosby in the hourlong "The Cosby Mysteries." But a pilot movie for that series was weak and drew weak ratings this past spring.
It's possible none of the networks will dominate this time slot.
- Thursday's overall: NBC is taking a big chance here with its only really successful night. It canceled "L.A. Law," and moved "Frasier" and "Wings."
Can the Peacock retain its dominance with two hours of new programming - two new sitcoms ("Friends" at 7:30 p.m. and Dabney Coleman's "Madman of the People" at 8:30 p.m.) along with the new drama "E.R." at 9 p.m.? The network is gambling its fortunes that it can.
- Fridays at 9 p.m.: NBC appears to have created another sacrificial lamb in "Homicide: Life on the Street" - a show network execs keep insisting they love.
It's not going to unseat ABC's "20/20." And it probably can't beat CBS Emmy-winner "Picket Fences." (Which airs on Saturdays at 11 p.m. locally.)
"Homicide" is going to get killed off quickly.
- The Big Battle: Common consensus is that ABC will dethrone CBS and finish No. 1 in the ratings next season.
And your local television editor, being as common they come, agrees.
ABC is displaying increasing success with its stable of hit comedies. CBS, on the other hand, hasn't been able to create a big success in several seasons.
And, just like NBC a few years ago, its remaining hits are aging and weakening.
Not to mention the fact that, this coming season, ABC will have the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Oscars - while CBS won't have the Winter Olympics.
Television is cyclical. And, currently, the cycle has ABC on the way up and CBS on the way down.