Carol Burnett coming back to CBS, others rushing to get nostalgic shows
Thursday, January 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ Carol Burnett is talking to CBS about doing more specials, part of what one top executive called a ``feeding frenzy'' for nostalgic television programming.
TV executives have gone on similar binges in the past when something proved popular, buying game shows after ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' and reality shows after ``Survivor.''
The latest trend is toward TV classics, after CBS won the November sweeps period with the help of top-rated specials saluting Burnett and Lucille Ball.
``Old producers are calling us, and stars,'' said CBS President Leslie Moonves on Thursday. ``Everybody has called everybody. There was a feeding frenzy, as there usually is. You wouldn't believe some of the calls we've been getting.''
Burnett is talking about doing more specials or television movies, Moonves said. Her special, ``The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers,'' drew nearly 30 million viewers on Nov. 26.
CBS wouldn't be specific about additional plans, but is discussing other specials involving old television stars. The network has scheduled a salute to Muhammad Ali later this month.
NBC is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a three-hour live special on May 5. Among other specials NBC has scheduled for May _ a ratings ``sweeps'' month _ is a ``Cosby Show'' reunion with Bill Cosby as host, a two-hour ``L.A. Law'' reunion movie and a special with clips of old Bob Hope specials.
ABC has similar plans in the works, but wouldn't reveal any specifics.
``Nostalgia? We're 15 years old,'' quipped Scott Grogin, a spokesman for the Fox network.
Fox does hold a wild card, though: Its affiliated studio, 20th Century Fox, owns the rights to one of CBS' most popular old shows, ``M-A-S-H,'' and is considering a salute to that comedy.
What surprised TV executives was how well some of these nostalgic shows have done with young people. They didn't realize, at first, that many young people were familiar with these old shows because of syndicated reruns.
``We expected 15 million people over 40,'' Moonves said about the Burnett special. ``We didn't expect the 15 million under 40.''
CBS is the top-rated network so far this season, although that lead is shaky considering second-place NBC is televising the Winter Olympics next month. Part of the reason for CBS' success is that it is losing some of its gray hair.
Traditionally the broadcaster with the oldest audience, CBS has lowered its median age this season by 1.2 years. Among the advertiser-desired 18-to-49-year-old age demographic, CBS is closer to first place (now held by NBC) than it has been in a decade, Moonves said.
``Survivor'' and ``CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'' have been key to that success. CBS' Monday night comedy block is drawing younger viewers as the shows become hits and more people learn about them, said David Poltrack, the network's top researcher.
``Hit shows on CBS start old and get younger,'' he said.