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SO FAR, AT LEAST, `ANGEL’ LOOKS LIKE IT’S A GO ON CBS

SHARE SO FAR, AT LEAST, `ANGEL’ LOOKS LIKE IT’S A GO ON CBS

Reports are cropping up in a number of publications that the CBS series "Touched by an Angel" - which is currently filming here in Salt Lake City - is in serious trouble.

Everything from the Los Angeles Daily News to TV Guide have included "unidentified sources" items that the show won't be on the network's fall schedule as planned.But, while few things in life are less certain than television schedules, at the moment anyway CBS seems determined to go ahead with "Angel," reaffirming again this week that the series will debut on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m.

"All I know is that everything I've heard is that nothing has changed," said a CBS publicist for the show. "We're still planning to be on the air in September."

Not only that, but the day before "Touched by an Angel" goes on the air one of the show's stars, Roma Downey, will host a special titled "Angels Among Us," which CBS will use as a promotional tool for the new series. It will feature "three heart-warming stories of `angelic intervention' with humans."

And that ties in rather well with "Touched by an Angel," which features Downey and Della Reese as angels who go about helping deserving people at turning points in their lives.

So where are all these rumors about troubles on the series coming from? First, no doubt, from the show's already somewhat turbulent history.

The original pilot - as well as the show's original executive producer - were dumped by CBS, which is producing the series itself. A new executive producer was brought in and the show's direction changed significantly, making stories of turmoil somewhat natural. (Whether they're true or not.)

Second, less than a month before it's supposed to premiere there are no completed episodes of "Touched by an Angel." While that's not unusual for a returning series, for a network to not even have a pilot in hand at this point is out of the ordinary.

And third, CBS Broadcast Group President Howard Stringer set off some of the speculation with a comment he made to critics at last month's annual summer press tour.

"That . . . time period's the toughest on television - up against `Home Improvement,' " Stringer said. "And we haven't decided what to do about the time period. `Angel' could be ready."

He went on to say that if "Angel" isn't ready, "Christy" - already in production as a midseason replacement series - "is an option for that time period. We haven't finalized the o'clock time period."

Which didn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement of "Touched by an Angel" by the man in charge of the network.

But a conversation with another CBS executive later that same day put a rather different light on the situation. According to Steve Warner, CBS's executive vice president of program planning, what Stringer said wasn't what he meant.

"I was surprised to hear him say that. I think he was talking about the future - will `Touched by an Angel" be there a couple of months after it debuts," Warner said. "This show is definitely going to be on. Whether it stays on depends on how well it does."

In other words, like every other show on television "Angel's" future depends upon its ratings.

Since only six episodes of the series have been ordered, it won't have long to prove itself.

Again, when it comes to network television schedules, nothing is certain. CBS could make a last-minute change and pull "Touched by an Angel" off its September schedule.

Should "Christy," whose reruns began airing on Wednesday nights this week, pull surprisingly strong ratings there, a schedule change becomes not just a possibility but a probability.

"THE NANNY" MOVES: Speaking of summer scheduling that works out far better than the schedulers hope, take the case of "The Nanny."

CBS has been double-running the series for the past several weeks, trying to give it a boost by airing it on Mondays at 7 p.m. as well as in its regular time slot, Wednesdays at 7 p.m. And the move has worked out surprisingly well.

The big battle in that Monday night time slot was supposed to be between NBC's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" - the reigning champ - and ABC's top-ten hit "Coach." But, much to everybody's surprise, both those shows have been losing to "The Nanny."

The Fran Drescher sitcom has won the past five weeks in a row, beating not only those two shows but special airings of "The Simpsons" and "Monday Night Football." So the folks at CBS, who aren't extremely foolish, are going to leave "The Nanny" on Mondays.

(Which is exactly what could happen - theoretically - with "Christy" on Wednesday nights.)

The show originally slated to fill that time slot, the new Hal Linden-Suzanne Pleshette sitcom "The Boys are Back," will take over "The Nanny's" old Wednesday-night slot instead.