This was supposed to be the column in which I talked about local television coverage for all of Utah's major college basketball teams that are involved in post-season play.
OK - next subject.- CBS is shuffling its schedule in a last-minute effort to catch second-place ABC before the season official ends in April. Gone - and soon to be forgotten - are Dolphin Cove and Almost Grown, two shows that have been near the bottom of the Nielsen ratings ever since they were introduced. Beginning March 30 The Equalizer will move into the Thursday night at 8 o'clock slot, replacing Paradise, which is moving to Saturdays at 7 p.m. On Mondays, Newhart and Kate & Allie will be seen in "Almost Grown's" old 9-10 p.m. slot, making room for two new sitcoms, Live-In and Heartland, from 7-8.
- SAY IT AIN'T SO! Neal Marlens and Carol Black, the talented co-creators of ABC's The Wonder Years, say they will turn the show's reigns over to executive producer Bob Brush next week. According to Jim Benson of the Los Angeles Daily News, the husband-and-wife team feel they need a break from the "grueling routine" of writing and producing a weekly television series.
Which is understandable, I guess. I mean, we hear this from series creators all the time, so it must be true that the pressure is overwhelming. But "The Wonder Years" is at the top of its game. The show is a critical darling, and its new Tuesday night time slot is giving it the best ratings numbers in its short history.
ABC, which is publicly expressing confidence in Brush, is doubtless agonizing privately over the Marlens-Black decision. They are the heart and soul of "The Wonder Years," which is in fact loosely based on their own experiences growing up in the late 1960s. One has to believe that when they go, they'll take some of the show's "wonder" with them.
- CAROL O'CONNOR, star of one of television's quietest new hits, NBC's "In the Heat of the Night," underwent emergency heart bypass surgery in Atlanta last weekend. The 64-year-old actor, best known to audiences as television's Archie Bunker, had a routine physical examination on Friday, during which doctors learned of stress on his heart.
Doctors say O'Connor is recovering from surgery nicely, but he will be out of commission for most of the rest of "In the Heat of the Night's" shooting schedule for this season. No word from NBC yet on how the show will deal with the star's absence.
- 'TIS THE PILOT SEASON, as the networks start looking at potential new series for next fall. And, as you might expect, there are plenty of series being pitched that are based on hit theatrical films. CBS is piloting series based on "Coming to America," "Adventures in Babysitting" and "Married to the Mob," while NBC is considering "Working Girl," with - you'd better sit down for this, Chris Hicks - Nancy McKeon ("Facts of Life") in the Melanie Griffith role.
I don't know why, but something tells me we just might see a series about an autistic savant and his brother. What do you think?
- ON TV TONIGHT: Since it premiered on ABC, China Beach (9 p.m., Ch. 4) has attempted to honestly portray the reality of the Vietnam War experience from the perspective of the American men and women who actually served there. But tonight's special episode may be the series' most gallant effort to express the feelings of Vietnam veterans, as it intersperses dramatic vignettes with recollections from real-life vets. Some of them are fun; others are deadly serious. In either case this is impact television - a must for those who were there, or for those who know someone who was.
Also on the series front, Jake and the Fatman (8 p.m., Ch. 5) returns to the CBS schedule after being soundly beaten and left for dead during the 1988 television season. In case you've forgotten, this is the one that features William Conrad as a crusty district attorney and Joe Penny as his hard-nosed investigator (see if you can guess which one plays "the Fatman"). In tonight's season premiere the crime-fighting duo packs up their bermudas and heads to Hawaii, where the show will be based from now on. And the producers promise that Penny will be the only one of the two trotting around in shorts and tank tops - thankfully.
Elsewhere: Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft star as former dancing rivals renewing their love-hate relationship in The Turning Point (8 p.m., Ch. 7); TBS has an NBA Basketball Doubleheader, with the Jazz-Trailblazers game at 6:05 p.m. and the Mavericks-Warriors contest at 8:30; the USA Cable Network airs last week's Ray "Boom-Boom" Mancini-Hector Camacho Fight (9 p.m., USA); and Marie Osmond guests on Pat Sajak (11:05 p.m., Ch. 5).
Looking Toward Thursday: The NCAA Basketball Tournament swings into action, with nationally televised games including Kansas State-Minnesota (10 a.m., ESPN), Arkansas-Loyola Marymount (12:30 p.m., ESPN), St. Mary's-Clemson (2:30 p.m., ESPN), West Virginia-Tennessee (5 p.m., ESPN), Virginia-Providence (7 p.m., ESPN), Pittsburgh-Ball State (8 p.m., ESPN) and DePaul-Memphis State (11:05 p.m., Ch. 5); and Just Tipsy, Honey (4 p.m., Ch. 4) is an "ABC AfterSchool Special" about a teenager trying to deal with her mother's alcoholism.