While long-running prime-time soapers such as Dallas and Dynasty continue to pull high ratings, the genre has not had a bona fide new hit during the past two seasons. Dramas about a minor-league baseball team (Bay City Blues), an Army base (For Love and Honor), Naval base (Emerald Point NAS) and a Texas ranch (The Yellow Rose) all flopped last year. While this year, ABC pulled the plug on its fashion-world soaper, Paper Dolls, and its glitzy publishing series, Glitter. These series didn't flop because of a lack of big names. Their casts boasted such stars as Dennis Weaver, Cybill Shepherd, David Birney and Morgan Fairchild. Nor did they fail because of big-name creators: Bay City Blues was created by Steven Bochco of Hill Street Blues, Emerald Point was developed by Esther and Richard Shapiro of Dynasty, while Glitter was created by serial wizard Aaron Spelling.
But NBC entertainment chief Brandon Tartikoff isn't worried about this dismal pattern. "As we've seen in the past, it is extremely difficult to launch a continuing drama in the crunch of the highly competitive fall season," he says. "Berrenger's was always planned to have its premiere in mid-season."
Set to air at 10 p.m., one of the bargain basements of prime time, Berrenger's will top a Saturday night NBC line-up dominated by kidcoms: Diff'rent Strokes, Gimme a Break, Spencer, and Double Trouble. It faces competition from two soft middle-level shows: ABC's escapist fantasy Finder of Lost Loves and CBS's action-adventure comedy-drama Cover Up.
Perhaps Berrenger's will have better luck than a previous show that was set in a department store. Who remembers Many Happy Returns, which aired on CBS from 1964-65? It starred John McGiver as Walter Burnley, the harried manager of a complaint department of Krockmeyer's department store.
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