As "Home Improvement" gets set to ride off into the sunset of perpetual syndication, ABC has just one last task for the long-running sitcom to undertake. The show will spend the summer trying to help the network revive its Friday-night fortunes.
ABC's once-feared T.G.I.F. lineup has fallen on hard times of late. It didn't help that the Olsen twins' "Two of a Kind" performed so poorly this past season.The problem has become that the network couldn't find shows that would appeal to both children and adults. (And, really, what adult in their right mind would want to spend half an hour every week with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen?) Kids aren't enough to please advertisers -- you've got to get those 18- to 49-year-olds watching in order to sell commercials for top dollar.
Come the fall, ABC is going to throw "The Hughleys" into the breach on Fridays at 7 p.m. And it's a move that makes at least some degree of sense -- it's not a great show, but it is one that has considerably more adult appeal than "Two of a Kind."
And perhaps we should be grateful that "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" is no longer going to be a part of the T.G.I.F. lineup. ABC got surprisingly good ratings when that mediocre-at-best show aired on Fridays last spring, but it's definitely not a show that's appropriate for young kids. (It will, however, be airing on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the fall -- right before the remarkably inappropriate lout comedy "The Norm Show.")
Whether "The Hughleys" is strong enough to carve out a spot on Fridays remains to be seen, however. And ABC is giving it a leg up by scheduling it on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. beginning July 16 right after "Home Improvement."
And "Home" is, of course, one of the few shows on network TV that appeals to both kids and their parents. (Which explains why Disney and ABC were so reluctant to let it go, despite its much-decreased ratings in recent years.)
ABC is following the lead of Fox and CBS by moving a number of shows to new time slots that reflect where they're going to end up in the fall. Other changes include:
"Spin City" moves to Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on July 20. (This is one of TV's most improved shows -- a genuinely funny ensemble comedy -- but, once again, the sexual content is exceedingly high for a time slot this early.)
"It's like, you know . . ." moves to Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., also on July 20.
Not all the changes reflect what's going to happen in the fall, however. Also on Friday, July 16, "Boy Meets World" moves to 8:30 p.m. -- even though it will be seen at 7:30 p.m. come September.
"Dharma & Greg" shifts to Tuesdays at 8 p.m., also on July 20.
"Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" moves into the lead-off position on Wednesdays, taking over the 7 p.m. time slot on July 21.
"The Norm Show" follows on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., a move that's also effective on July 21.
MIDSEASON REPLACEMENTS: The only real thing about networks' fall schedules is that most of the shows are going to fail. Which is why, long before they premiere, networks are already plotting their replacements.
ABC has ordered a couple of new series for midseason (which could come anytime between late September and June), one comedy and one drama.
The comedy is " Talk to Me," which stars Kyra Sedgwick as a radio talk-show host. (Hmmm . . . sounds sort of like a female version of "Frasier." And -- surprise! -- it comes to us from former "Frasier" writer/producer Suzanne Martin.)
Sedgewick plays Janey, whose life takes a turn for the worst when her boyfriend leaves her and her bosses hire her arch-rival, the "social conservative" Dr. Debra (shades of Dr. Laura) as her on-air partner. ABC has ordered six episodes.
The other replacement series is operating under the working title "Bellevue," and it's an ensemble medical drama set in a psychiatric hospital. Oddly enought, it comes from executive producer Peter Berg, best known to TV viewers as an actor on "Chicago Hope" for the past five years.
(He won't be acting in "Bellevue," however.)