- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 12, 2002

PASADENA, Calif. — NBC executives suggest you might want to change the channel if you want to watch family-friendly programs.
NBC has not done well developing such shows and its audience isn't very interested, the network's West Coast president, Scott Sassa, says.
That's noteworthy because three years ago, after just taking his job, Mr. Sassa made a big point of saying family-oriented programming was a priority. Two of NBC's competitors, ABC and Fox, have made a big push recently in that direction.
"We don't see them as really the kinds of shows that are in our wheelhouse," Mr. Sassa says.
NBC has no children as regular characters in its prime-time lineup, although Jennifer Aniston's Rachel on "Friends" soon will have a baby out of wedlock.
Some of the newer family programs that have been moderate critical and commercial successes "According to Jim" and "My Wife and Kids" on ABC, "The Bernie Mac Show" on Fox would not make it on NBC, Mr. Sassa says.
"They don't have the upscale demos that we want that would allow us to keep them on the air," Mr. Sassa says.
NBC also has had trouble casting these shows and finding writers, he says.
NBC's most publicized family-friendly effort, "Daddio," failed. Mr. Sassa says he pushed in this direction three years ago because ABC's "Home Improvement" had just gone off the air and he saw a void.
Mr. Sassa also dismisses the theory that audiences want "comfort" shows in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"If comfort shows were important, two shows on our air 'Providence' and 'Ed' would be killing everybody," he says. Instead, they are doing only moderately well.
He acknowledges trying to walk the line between not shocking people with adult-oriented themes and dialogue while trying to respond to HBO's success with shows such as the Emmy-winning "Sex and the City." Another indication that NBC appeals primarily to adults came last month when it became the first network to accept hard liquor ads.
NBC will develop shows "that fit the NBC mold smart, upscale, urban comedies," NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker says. "We know what we do well and we're going to continue down that road."
To that end, NBC's top priority is persuading the "Friends" cast to stay for a ninth season or beyond. The network also is offering three new shows: "Watching Ellie" with former "Seinfeld" actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus; "Leap of Faith," about a group of friends in their 30s; and a sketch comedy show with Colin Quinn as host.
The network on Wednesday also said three freshman series, "Scrubs," "Crossing Jordan" and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent," will be back next fall
Other TV news
Viacom confirms it may introduce a homosexual-oriented TV channel for what the company calls an underserved audience niche.
MTV and Showtime, two units of the media conglomerate, are exploring the new venture, which as yet has no name and no launch date.

CBS President Leslie Moonves says network executives met days ago with Carol Burnett to discuss her involvement in a number unspecified future specials, which he says likely would amount to "a couple of projects a year."

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