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Bochco is ‘Blue’

‘NYPD’ chief is angry at ABC over scheduling

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Steven Bochco has no complaints at all about the fact that ABC gave his new show, "Philly," the Tuesday-at-9 p.m. timeslot long occupied by his old show, "NYPD Blue." But he's more than a bit miffed at what's happening to "Blue."

As of Nov. 6, "Blue" will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. — directly opposite NBC's "Law & Order."

"I don't agree with 10 o'clock (9 p.m. MST) on Wednesday," Bochco said. "I think it's not a good time slot for us. I don't think it makes a lot of sense to take a New York-themed police show that has been a great success and put it up against another great success, which is a New York-themed police show, on a night that it dominates with an enormously successful ratings lead-in in 'The West Wing.' "

In other words, Bochco expects "NYPD Blue" to get beaten by "Law & Order" in the ratings. And he fears it could get beaten badly.

"There's simply no question in my mind that we cannot do as well on Wednesday nights at (9) o'clock as we did Tuesdays at (9). . . . I don't think it's a smart move," he said. "It's not my call, obviously. If it was, we wouldn't be there."

"Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf — who, by the way, worked with Bochco on "Hill Street Blues" — said he thought the move "will probably marginally hurt both shows."

"I'm not happy about it," Wolf said. "I'm just as unhappy as Steven."

Bochco obviously feels that ABC looks at "NYPD Blue" as a show that may not be around much longer despite ABC Entertainment co-chairman Stu Bloomberg's insistence that, "We believe in Steven Bochco, and we believe in the show." And Bochco is particularly unhappy that network executives have refused to renew "Blue" beyond the end of its upcoming ninth season.

"Given the realities and the difficulties of being on Wednesdays and my sensitivity to the potential accusation that we were selling out the interests of 'NYPD Blue' for our new show, I asked them to pick us up for a 10th season. And they wouldn't," Bochco said. "That, probably, was the single most disappointing thing in all of this, because if they had picked us up for a 10th season, then you say, 'OK, well, at least that's an acknowledgment that we're being asked to really make a sacrifice but that there's an understanding and a loyalty involved in recognizing that that's a two-way street.' But, clearly, that didn't happen. But we're all grown-ups, and we move on from there."

ABC executives, on the other hand, insist that they're looking at "NYPD Blue" as the strongest weapon they have to fight the entrenched "Law & Order."

"We took a cold, hard look at our schedule in May and decided we wanted to be as aggressive and competitive and smart as we could possible be. . . . We felt that 'NYPD Blue' would improve our performance significantly on Wednesday night," said ABC Entertainment co-chairman Lloyd Braun.

This isn't the first time Bochco has complained about the scheduling of "NYPD Blue." Two seasons ago, ABC decided to delay the show's season premiere until January, and Bochco made no secret of his unhappiness. As it turned out, however, delaying the show and allowing it to run without repeats actually boosted "Blue's" ratings.

And the producer would have liked to have seen something similar happen again this season.

"We had hoped . . . that, in being held back to January as we had been the last two years, that we might wind up on Monday nights after football, which would've seemed to be a natural place for us to go," Bochco said. "And being programmed Wednesday at 10 was kind of surprising."

Bochco even suggested that the move has damaged his long relationship with ABC.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "It certainly doesn't change our commitment to doing the best job that we can do. I love both shows, and I will continue to work as hard as I can on both shows, but, yeah, I think it absolutely changes how you feel about your business partner. No question about it."

And, while he expressed his displeasure in a calm and measured fashion with critics, he was more blunt with ABC execs. Bloomberg said Bochco sent him a copy of a newspaper story "where some woman had killed her husband for turning off 'NYPD Blue.' He sent that to me and said, 'This could happen to you.' "

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com