Never Say 'Canceled'
June 12, 1995
USA Today
By Jefferson Graham

The diagnosis for Dick Van Dyke's murder-mystery series isn't terminal after all.

When CBS recently set its new fall schedule, Diagnosis Murder wasn't anywhere to be found.

CBS didn't cancel the series; it simply chose not to renew it. But two weeks later, the network had a change of heart and gave the doctor a midseason order for 13 episodes.

The producers of every other series not on the schedule hope for the same recovery.

Fox has told the producers of Sliders and The Critic that the shows aren't canceled. Of course, they weren't renewed either. But Fox is postponing a final decision until the end of June, when contracts with the actors expire and they will be free to move on to new projects.

"I understand what CBS is trying to do," says Diagnosis executive producer Fred Silverman, the former head of programming for CBS, NBC and ABC.

"CBS is trying to attract younger viewers, but at the same time they're also launching 11 new shows, and they've got to have something reliable on the shelf as a backup that you know will get a rating. We're a good backup show, because we have always performed."

At the same time, Silverman and partner Dean Hargrove are trying to add some youthful vitality to their show, which currently appeals to the over-50 crowd. They've hired a new head writer, Jim Chiak, formerly of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. And Van Dyke's character, Dr. Mark Sloan, will move to Venice, Calif., where he will spend more time with his students and less time in the hospital.

Silverman's long-running Matlock, which originally aired on NBC and most recently aired as a series of movies on ABC, may get a third chance at life. Silverman says he's negotiating with Turner Broadcasting to finance new Matlock movies. The show airs in reruns on TBS.

Tracy Torme, creator and executive producer of Sliders, would love to have some of Silverman's luck rub off on him. Sliders, about four people who travel to other worlds by sliding into worm holes, received good reviews and performed better in Fox's Wednesday 9 p.m. ET/PT slot than the show that inherits the time period next fall, Party of Five. Torme is hoping the huge response for the show on the Internet (computer users tend to be big sci-fi fans) and ratings data will pay off with a midseason order.

Fox begins rerunning Sliders episodes June 25, which he sees as a sign of faith.

"I was with Gene Roddenberry when The Next Generation started and watched the show slowly build a steady following," says Torme, a writer/ producer for the Star Trek sequel.

"I'm amazed at how fast people found Sliders. They don't want to let it go. I've been approached about novelizations, CD-ROM games and appearing at conventions. I think if Fox doesn't pick us up, we'll end up on another network or in syndication. There's just too much interest in the show." Paramount was able to save Sister, Sister after its ABC cancellation by selling the show to the new WB network, which needed a popular show for kids.

Producers of Thunder Alley, recently canceled by ABC, also are talking with other networks about a possible pickup. UPN, the other new network, hasn't picked up any of the canceled series, but programming chief Mike Sullivan says he's got a huge stack of tapes waiting to be reviewed.

"Our agenda is to look for success," he says. "It doesn't matter to us where the show came from. If the show fits our programming needs, we'd have no problem picking it up."

1995, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co., Inc. ut61295

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