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THE SALINA JOURNAL APPLAUSE WEDNESDAY. OCTOBER 8. 1997 Few Winners, Many Sinners for New Television Season Aside from the obvious — that "ER" and "Seinfeld" are unmatchable successes — the first week of the new television season left most network executives groping for indications of what viewers really like, and what they really, really don't like. Some early signs have already been smudged. After Week 1, for example, it looked as if NBC had severely dented CBS' four-comedy block on Monday with its "League of Their Own" lineup of female comedies. But the early news from Week 2 was that NBC's Monday comedies, most of which are despised by critics, fell backward in a big way. That was the second bit of unhappy news for NBC, which sailed through much of the first week looking as if it was heading for an ever more dominant season. NBC threw a monster Thursday NBC at its competitors, with live "ER" and a new "Seinfeld" that actually set records for that now venerable show. But Sunday night NBC's new comedies, "Men Behaving Badly" and "Jenny," trailed all three other networks, even among the young viewers NBC has declared the Holy Grail of television. Still, it was far from the worst network \ news of the week. ABC lost several million viewers from its premiere week last year. That network did have one new comedy, "Dharma and Greg," which scored hit-like numbers its first time out. But ABC got clobbered on Saturday, its Tuesday was hit hard by NBC, and Thursday went completely to the devil. The network's widely praised new drama about a Catholic priest, "Nothing Sacred," was the lowest- rated show on any network. Just to rub it in, four more advertisers, responding to protests from conservative Catholic groups, announced this week that they were pulling their commercials. CBS had the most up-and- down week of any network. Depressed after Monday, CBS was pleased with how well its "Country Music Awards" did Wednesday and thrilled by how "Promised Land," another religious-themed show, buried "Nothing Sacred" on Thursday. Then came Friday, where CBS' expensive gambit of buying two former hits from ABC's TGIF lineup is floundering. The results improved slightly for a second week of CBS' best new series on the night, "The Gregory Mines Show." But CBS returned to strength on Saturday and Sunday and was buoyed by a comeback for its comedies on Monday, which easily beat NBC's. That left Fox, whose performance has been basically steady, especially with those precious younger viewers. Fox's most promising new show, "Ally McBeal," has declined, but Is still doing better than comedies Fox had last year. But "The Visitor," its new sci-fi show on Friday, sagged badly in its second outing. • — BILL CARTER THE SENATOR VS, NBC With NBC declining to volunteer to join the other networks' voluntary venture of assigning content labels to television shows — V for violence, S for sex, L for coarse language and D for suggestive dialogue — Sen. John J. McCain, R-Ariz., has written to the network asking for a change of heart. Asking? Actually, in his letter to NBC's president, Bob Wright, McCain makes a not-so-veiled threat to "pursue a series of alternative ways of safeguarding, by law and regulation, the interests that NBC refuses to safeguard voluntarily." Since McCain is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, his threats — including noting that he would urge the Federal Communications Commission to review NBC stations' license renewal applications — carry weight. His letter enables NBC to say, "I told you so." One reason NBC declined to join other cable and broadcast networks in adding the content-based letters (V, S, L and D) to the age-group ratings (TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14 and TV-MA) was that NBC regarded the system as coercive, through government arm-twisting, rather than voluntary. The industry's negotiating team last year agreed to the original ratings system in part to stave off government requirements for ratings, or federal legislation such as the bill proposed by Sen. Ernest Rollings, D-S.C., to require that shows with violence be scheduled after 10 p.m. In July, the original system, with the movielike categories based on age group suitability, was revised with the new letter labels, after an intense lobbying effort by a coalition of family-advocacy groups. It will appear on most networks, except NBC and BET, starting Wednesday. An NBC spokeswoman said the network was preparing a reply to McCain's letter. — LA\VRIE MIFFLIN CABLE'S 300 If the overall message from premiere week was mixed for the broadcast networks, the cable networks felt they had the goods to crow. Premiere week showed a decline to a 62.6 share of the total television audience for the four networks, down from a 65 share last year, while the share for cable rose from a 30.5 last year to almost a 34 share this year. About 85 percent of that share is going to the 40 biggest cable networks. But, just to underscore the kind of competition the four big broadcast networks face, the total number of cable channels in- cluded in that share approaches 300. And, of course, both new networks, the WB and UPN continue to pull viewers away from the big networks. One other development of note is which cable networks showed the biggest growth year to year. Among them: USA Network, Nickelodeon and FX. What do they have in common? They all broadcast reruns of old broadcast network shows in prime time. While one cable industry executive pointed to the continuing decline of the four networks as a promising sign for cable, it could also be a warning to them: Where will they get their programming if the networks aren't around producing hits whose repeats they can buy? — BILL CARTER ADAMHEALY 2075 S. Ohio, Suite 7B 823-7713 For auto, home and life- Being in good hands is the only pkce to her Deb! Fettle's 341 Center | Flowtrs For All Occasions. Salina TO RESPOND TO ADS, CALLs 1-9OO-737-116O $2.19/minute, you must be at least 18 years of age. ECTldN I N E TO PLACE YOUR FREE AD Mail: The Salina Journal, Classified Advertising Dept., 333 S. 4th St., Salina, KS 67401 Fax: Your Ad to (913) 823-3207 E-Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org FREE Message retrieval every Wednesday! 1-888-441-4419 WOMEN SEEKING MEN Adventurous Type? #2431. I live for the next adventure, let's find one together, If you dare... 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