For years, ABC owned Tuesday night, just as NBC dominated Thursday.
Now, the network’s once-proud lineup, built around the Tim Allen comedy “Home Improvement,” has slipped into disrepair, providing executives cause to chant the show’s mantra for “more power,” or at least some creative remodeling.
Last week, in the wake of its lowest-rated Tuesday on record during the regular TV season, ABC canceled one new series, “Over the Top,” and pulled another, “Hiller and Diller,” until December. For the next few weeks ABC will again be compelled to run “Home Improvement” twice - with repeats airing an hour before original episodes - as a stopgap measure during the ratings sweeps.
Once a tower of strength, ABC’s Tuesday franchise has been whittled down to apartment size through a combination of misguided strategy, poor program development, changes in viewing habits and aggressive counterscheduling by NBC.
Moreover, the problem ABC faces that night serves as a microcosm of its current ratings woes - specifically, apparent indecision as to what the network, owned by the Walt Disney Co., wants to be.
For most of the past decade, ABC controlled Tuesday behind family-oriented sitcoms, including “Roseanne,” “Who’s the Boss?” and “Full House.” Few of its shows were critical favorites, but the programs connected with parents and children, who watched them together.
Those franchises faded, however, and ABC was slow to develop programs to replace them. In addition, family viewing has diminished, with nearly three-quarters of homes having two or more TV sets and parents and kids often watching in different rooms.
Sources contend that ABC must accept blame for allowing business and financial considerations to dictate scheduling, as opposed to putting on the best programs.
An example would be “Champs,” a 1996 comedy starring Timothy Busfield given the post-“Home Improvement” time slot because it came from one of ABC’s production partners, DreamWorks. By fulfilling that obligation, ABC lost “3rd Rock From the Sun” to NBC and wound up having to yank the low-rated “Champs” after four telecasts.