PASADENA, Calif. - At an NBC press conference last week, "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf said one of the most important rules in television programming is never to move a hit show. He didn't understand ABC's decision to move "NYPD Blue" up against "Law & Order" this fall at 10 p.m. Wednesdays.
"Blue" boss Steven Bochco doesn't get it either. And he's happy to voice his disappointment.
"A ninth-season show moving to a new time slot against a proven hit is going to take a hit," executive producer Bochco said.
Bochco said he's happy with the time slot for his new legal drama, "Philly," which takes the "Blue" berth Tuesday at 10 p.m., but he feels "Blue" got slighted. Bochco would have preferred to have "Blue" wait until "Monday Night Football" ends and put the show on at 10 p.m. Mondays. Or he would have been happy if ABC had given "Blue" a renewal for its 10th season as a sign of faith in the series.
"If they had picked us up for a 10th season, then you can say that's a sign of acknowledgment that you have to make a sacrifice, but there's an understanding and loyalty involved in recognizing it's a two-way street," Bochco said. "(ABC executives) may say to us we cannot imagine a scenario in which you don't come back for a 10th season, and my response is, if you can't imagine that scenario, then what does it cost you to pick us up? In their refusal to do so, suddenly I can see that scenario."
ABC executives expressed faith that "NYPD Blue" is up to the challenge.
"We believe in Steven Bochco and we believe in 'Blue,"' said ABC Television Entertainment Group co-chairman Stu Bloomberg. "We're completely confident in it. With all due respect to Dick Wolf, 'Law & Order' is a fine show, but 'Blue' is a finer show, in our humble opinion."
Bochco said he understands ABC's goal is to take a run at "Law & Order" and give it stiffer competition, but he sees "Law" as a genuine hit that will prove impervious to attack.
"I don't think it makes a lot of sense to take a New York-themed police show, which 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,"' Bochco said. "There's simply no question in my mind we cannot do as well on Wednesday night as we did on Tuesday night."
This fall on "NYPD Blue" Rick Schroder will be gone. He won't appear in the season premiere, but his character's disappearance will be explained. Bochco considered pairing Dennis Franz with established co-stars Charlotte Ross or Henry Simmons, but instead he opted to bring in a new character to be played by former "Saved By the Bell" star Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
"We created a wonderful character for Mark-Paul, and I think he's going to knock people out," Bochco said. "He's a young officer who quickly becomes, under a unique set of circumstances, a detective."
That promotion is complicated by the fact his father is a detective in the Bronx and a contemporary of Sipowicz's and they genuinely dislike one another.
"It's an interesting and complex triangular relationship in which this young man is torn between an opinionated and tough-minded father and an equally opinionated, tough-minded mentor," Bochco said.
He's also looking to add another regular character, a female Puerto Rican detective. But don't expect to ever see David Caruso return to the series.
"No," Bochco said. "There's no chance."
- The new drama "Alias" - about a young woman who's a grad student by day, spy by night - will premiere Sept. 30 interruption-free through a sponsorship arrangement with Nokia. ABC had a similar deal with Johnson & Johnson for last fall's premiere of "Gideon's Crossing," which was not renewed for a second season.
- ABC has picked up a mid-season comedy called "The Web," about a naive television executive from the Midwest who becomes the head of an upstart television network. Peter Tolan ("The Larry Sanders Show," "The Job") created the series.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, executive producers of ABC's January reality show "The Runner," appeared at an ABC press conference where they and other producers refused to explain much about how the game is played. It appears to be a televised version of hide and go seek, but tightlipped producers did little to clarify the rules.
Worse yet, Affleck and Damon bolted after the press conference and didn't stay to answer follow-up questions (most celebrities, including Tom Hanks, are willing to do that). If Aaron Sorkin has the guts to show up to meet the press after getting busted for drugs, you'd think the boys from Boston could stick around for 15 minutes.
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