Think back, if you will, to last summer. If you watched anything at all on CBS - morning, noon or night - it was pretty much impossible to avoid the promotional spots for "Central Park West."
Created and produced by Darren Star, the man behind "Melrose Place," this was to be the flagship of a revamped CBS. Young and hip, the show was designed to bring young viewers to a network that traditionally attracted older folks.As it turned out, "Central Park West" didn't attract much of anybody. And the only attention the series got after its September debut was for its crummy ratings. It quickly became the butt of many a David Letterman joke.
Not that the viewing public's disdain was without merit. "Central Park West" wasn't campy enough to be funny and wasn't involving enough to be serious.
As originally conceived, the show's central character (Mariel Hemingway) was a Seattle editor who was hired to take over the struggling New York magazine Communique. But as the weeks passed and the ratings went from bad to worse, CBS executives focused their dissatsifaction on Hemingway and her character.
Hemingway either quit or was fired in early November.
By the middle of that month, CBS yanked the show off the air and sent it on hiatus so that it could be retooled. The network programmers promised that "Central Park West" would return to the schedule in January.
But when January rolled around, word came that the show would not return until March. And as March came and went, there was no word at all as to what would become of "Central Park West."
Not that there was any kind of hue and cry to bring the show back. If "Central Park West" had any fans at all, they were exceedingly quiet ones.
What we did learn was that the show was being revamped. That the focus was being switched from all those twentysomething characters to an older crowd.
Ron Liebman and Lauren Hutton, who were hardly overworked, would be moving to the forefront. And joining the cast were Gerald McRaney and Raquel Welch - who also haven't been twentysomething for several decades.
The show finally got on the schedule - the eight remaining episodes will air Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2 beginning tonight.
And just recently, the show officially got a new name. No longer known as "Central Park West," it's now simply "CPW."
(Of course, that's sort of like when Esso changed its name to Exxon. It was still just the same old gas, wasn't it?)
In tonight's episode, media mogul Allen Rush (Leibman) faces off against his longtime rival, media mogul Adam Brock (McRaney). Brock wants revenge, so he maneuvers to steal away both Communique and Rush's wife, Linda Fairchild Rush (Hutton).
Not to be outdone, in Friday's episode Allen Rush calls on Brock's nasty ex-wife, Dianna (Welch), to wreak havoc on Brock's professional and personal life.
Not that there's much danger of this, but there really isn't much sense in getting caught up in "CPW" this summer. CBS has already closed the coffin on the show, and is holding the hammer to nail the lid shut.
There's been no official announcement to that effect, but it's obvious for several reasons:
- CBS is burning the show off in June - a meaningless ratings month that avoids both the May and July sweeps.
- The network didn't even send out review tapes to critics. And CBS sends out just about everything, regardless of how bad it is, simply to get some ink.
- McRaney, who's central to the revamped "CPW," has already been signed to star in a different CBS show in the fall. He'll be working on "Home of the Brave" - a spinoff of "Touched by an Angel" - so it's obvious the network won't be needing him for further episodes of "CPW."
About the best thing that can be said of "CPW" is that, in a month in which the networks are dominated by reruns, this show will be airing new episodes.
Of course "new" doesn't always translate into "good" or "worth wasting time on."
ON THE OTHER HAND: There is some good news from CBS this month - four previously unseen episodes of "Picket Fences" will be seen on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning tonight.
The same programming geniuses (now departed) who pinned their hopes on "Central Park West" last fall also moved "Picket Fences" to Fridays at 8 p.m. - where it promptly withered. The show struggled creatively under a new team of producers last fall, but the time slot switch didn't help matters any.
By midseason, the show had largely righted itself in terms of quality, but - in another genius move - CBS yanked it off the air in February. The network aired three hours last month (including the show's final episode) but these four episodes remained.
Tonight's takes an intriguing twist to a problem encountered by all parents whose children play organized sports. Jill (Kathy Baker) reluctantly agrees to coach Zack's basketball team, but she's soon driven to win at all costs.
So her son and his teammates go to court to ban all parental involvement so the game will be fun again.
These episodes of "Picket Fences" really are a treat.
"EXTRA" EXTRA! The struggling would-be rival to "Entertainment Tonight," "Extra," has fired one former Salt Lake news personality as co-anchor - and hired two other former Salt Lake news personalities to anchor the show.
Former KTVX-Ch. 4 weatherman Dave Nemeth has been dropped, along with his co-anchor, Arthel Neville.
In their places will be former KSTU-Ch. 13 anchorwoman Libby Weaver and Brad Goode, the former anchorman for KTVX-Ch. 4's early morning newscast.
(Goode, most recently a reporter and weekend anchor for KCBS in Los Angeles, is also the ex-husband of former KSL-Ch. 5 anchorwoman Jennifer Howe.)
Weaver left Ch. 13 earlier this year to become a reporter and weekend anchor for "Extra." Oddly enough, she'll soon be on the local Fox-owned station five days a week once again - the show will move to Ch. 13 in the fall.
("Extra" made its local debut last fall on KUTV-Ch. 2, which put the show on the shelf because of low ratings.)
The change in anchors is part of a revamping of the show. After failing to compete particularly well against "Entertainment Tonight," "Extra" has become less about show biz and more about general human-interest stories.
GOOD NEWS: Mimi Kennedy, who was divine as the snobbish Ruth Sloan on the late, lamented "Homefront," will be turning up regularly in upcoming episodes of the WB's soap opera "Savannah."
Kennedy appeared briefly in the "Savannah" season finale, playing yet another uppity society dame. Her character, Eleanor Alexander, cuts the trampy Peyton (Jame Luner) dead, signaling her clear displeasure over Peyton's romance with Eleanor's son, Brian (Scott Baker Thompson).
Peyton's mother is played by Wendy Phillips - who co-starred with Kennedy on "Homefront." And the executive producers of "Savannah," Jim and Diane Stanley, were writers and producers on "Knots Landing" when Kennedy was a story editor for that show.
Kennedy, a charming woman and a fine actress, hasn't been seen much of late - she spent the last couple of years writing an autobiography ("Taken to the Stage: The Education of an Actress"), which is due out on Aug. 28.
"I was happy being a working actress, but I didn't work at all while I spent two years working on the book," Kennedy said this week. "The savings are gone, and I needed a job when Jim and Diane called."
She'll appear in at least five of the first seven episodes of "Savannah" when it returns in the fall - and hopefully remain after that.