Remember when I told you that as a result of the five-and-one-half month writers' strike we wouldn't be seeing much new television season programming before the end of October? Remember that? Well, forget it. NBC programmer Brandon Tartikoff announced Monday that 13 of his series will kick-off the new season the week of Oct. 3 - considerably ahead of commercial network rivals ABC and CBS, and right smack dab in between NBC's coverage of two of the best promotional platforms on network TV, the Summer Olympics and the World Series.
The shows scheduled to premiere that week are "ALF," "The Hogan Family," "Unsolved Mysteries," "Highway to Heaven," "The Cosby Show," "A Different World," "Dear John," "Sonny Spoon," "227," "Amen," "The Golden Girls," "Empty Nest" and "The Magical World of Disney." You will notice that the list mostly includes sitcoms, which are faster and easier to produce. "Unsolved Mysteries" is a reality-based show, and so it wasn't impacted by the strike. "Highway to Heaven" was helped by an independent agreement with the striking writers, and "Sonny Spoon" and "Disney" started work on scripts long before the strike took effect.The rest of the NBC line-up will premiere after the World Series, with "Something Is Out There," "Tattinger's," "Hunter," "Family Ties" and "Day by Day" bowing the week of Oct. 24; and "Night Court," "Baby Boom," "Cheers," "L.A. Law" and "Miami Vice" opening the week of Oct. 31.
The last three NBC series - "Matlock," "In the Heat of the Night" and "Midnight Caller" - will take a little longer, since they were caught by the strike without any scripts on hand and without interim agreements. Tartikoff plans to premiere those shows the week of Nov. 28.
"Actually, those shows will be ready a little sooner than that," Tartikoff said, "but we don't want to premiere them against `War and Remembrance'."
Even so, NBC will be the first network on with a full slate of new fall season programming. By a long shot.
So why does NBC seem to have the magic touch? "I don't know if it's a magic touch," Tartikoff said. "But I think we're good business people - hopefully as we are good idea people. We were prepared and we gave out script orders sooner."
And now they'll get back on the air sooner. As if NBC really needs to take another advantage into the fall television season.
* NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW THIS, but between the time she completed shooting the pilot for "L.A. Law" and when the series went on the air, actress Jill Eikenberry was diagnosed as having breast cancer.
"I was one of the lucky ones," she told critics Monday. "I didn't have to lose a breast. I had to undergo radiation therapy during the first six episodes of `L.A. Law.' It was not an easy time."
Nor is it for most women who are similarly afflicted, which is why Eikenberry and her husband and co-star, Michael Tucker, have agreed to host and produce an unusual NBC special about emotional recovery after breast cancer.
"Destined to Live: One Hundred Roads to Recovery" will feature the inspiring stories of Eikenberry and 99 other women - including First Lady Nancy Reagan - who have faced the disease and are dealing with it. Produced jointly by the network's news and entertainment divisions, it will air Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 9 p.m. on Ch. 2.
"Between the period of my treatment and diagnosis, I underwent an enormous amount of soul-searching and terror," Eikenberry said. "Despite the incredible support of my husband, my family and my friends, the only real rays of hope came from the women who had been through the experience and survived. They were the ones who made me feel that I wasn't alone.
"This documentary will deal with 100 such survivors. We hope to be able to reach out to every woman in this country and say, `Here we are. We feel that there is no stigma attached to this disease. It's not a death sentence if you take care of yourself, if you have a mammogram yearly, if you check yourself. We are all destined to live."
Tartikoff, who was himself diagnosed as having Hodgkin's disease several years ago, admitted that "when Jill brought this to me, obviously it did touch a chord." But that's not the only reason he's going with it - probably up against a Major League Baseball playoff game on ABC.
"I think that what this will say to people who face any form of cancer - and in particular breast cancer - is that you can not only survive, but you can triumph and flourish and have active, meaningful and productive lives," he said.
* OTHER TARTIKOFFISMS from the network programming director's press conference Monday:
- Upon noting that Jay Tarses produced two of the three shows that scored the lowest on viewer satisfaction polls, NBC's "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" and ABC's "Slap Maxwell": Well, at least I can't accuse Jay of working too hard on the other show."
- Plans for a new series based on "The Hardy Boys" have evolved into a possible two-hour movie presentation later in the year.
- On the letter-writing campaign launched by Viewers for Quality Television to save "Molly Dodd": "We listen to everybody, but you have to remember that I was here when the cancelation of `Little House on the Prairie' generated 20,000 angry letters that didn't stop coming until we got `Highway to Heaven' on the air. `Remington Steele' brought in about 10,000 and `Star Trek' generated about 125,000 letters. So far we've received about 5,000 letters about `A Year in the Life.' We've received more letters about `Aaron's Way,' and nobody is even organizing that one."