That's the view from this corner as the ill-fated television season of 1988-89 heads into the home stretch.
In a year that might be better remembered for what it didn't have after an extended strike by film and television writers than for what it did have, here's where we stand. We have one bona fide new hit ("Roseanne"), a couple of new time period hits ("Dear John" and "Empty Nest"), some strong new performers ("ABC Monday Mystery Movie" and "Murphy Brown") and the usual assortment of disappointments ("TV 101," "A Fine Romance" and "Almost Grown," to name just three).Among continuing series, "The Cosby Show" has extended its prime time dominance and "Family Ties" has taken a dramatic dip in its final season, as has "Newhart." "Hunter" is having its best season yet, while "Beauty in the Beast" is struggling with weak ratings - and scripts.
The most popular programs are The Cosby Show (NBC), Roseanne (ABC), A Different World (NBC), Cheers (NBC), 60 Minutes (CBS), Golden Girls (NBC), Who's The Boss? (ABC), Murder, She Wrote (CBS), Empty Nest (NBC) and Growing Pains (ABC). No surprises there.
The next group includes Dear John (NBC), L.A. Law (NBC), Matlock (NBC), ALF (NBC), In the Heat of the Night (NBC), Head of the Class (ABC), Unsolved Mysteries (NBC), Hunter (NBC), Night Court (NBC) and Sunday Movie (CBS).
Then there's Monday Mystery Movie (ABC), Amen (NBC), Sunday Movie (NBC), Monday Movie (NBC), Knots Landing (CBS), Hogan Family (NBC), Dallas (CBS), Full House (ABC) and Designing Women (CBS).
These are the shows that are safe bets for renewal next season. They are top 30 performers, and frequent top 10 performers. If your favorites are all here, don't worry. Be happy.
Shows that rank in the 30s and 40s, however, are marginal. Their survival depends on what else the network has on hand. Shows ranked in the 30s are usually safe, which means you can feel pretty comfortable about Murphy Brown (CBS), 227 (NBC), Family Ties (NBC), The Wonder Years (ABC), Perfect Strangers (ABC), Midnight Caller (NBC), 20/20 (ABC) and My Two Dads (NBC).
But shows that rank in the 40s look expendable. You'd better start hoping for a strong finish if you like Sunday Movie (ABC), Father Dowling (NBC), Falcon Crest (CBS), Kate & Allie (CBS), Nightingales (NBC), Mr. Belvedere (ABC), Macgyver (ABC), Day by Day (NBC) or Tuesday Movie (CBS).
Beyond 50, you're in trouble. And that could mean problems for fans of Newhart (CBS), Just the Ten of Us (ABC), Hooperman (ABC), China Beach (ABC), Paradise (CBS), Beauty and the Beast (CBS), Almost Grown (CBS), Dynasty (ABC), Magical World of Disney (NBC), 48 Hours (CBS), Man Called Hawk (ABC) and Tour of Duty (CBS).
But if you enjoy Mission: Impossible (ABC), Dolphin Cove (CBS), Great Circus of the World (ABC), Heartbeat (ABC), TV 101 (CBS), Murphy's Law (ABC) or A Fine Romance (ABC), forget it. It's over.
Of course, it's still not too late to save a moderate performer. TV executives will soon be making their decisions for next fall's season, so now is the time to drop a line and give them some positive input on your favorites. (Addresses for each network are found inside the back page of your TV Week magazine.)