Steven Bochco may be one of the most powerful men in television but, right now, he's not a very happy camper.
Sure, Bochco - creator and producer of such shows at ``Hill Streets Blues,' ``Murder One' and ``L.A. Law' - has a promising new series, ``Philly,' starring Kim Delaney, in a great time slot, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. The only problem is that the returning ABC series it is scheduled to replace is Bochco's long-running ``NYPD Blue.' It's been one of the network's biggest hits over the past eight years, but on the fall schedule, it will move to Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET opposite the equally long-running NBC juggernaut, ``Law & Order.'And that makes Bochco just a bit peeved.
``Listen, I don't agree with 10 o'clock on Wednesdays. I think it's not a good time slot for us,' says Bochco. ``I don't think it makes a lot of sense to take a New York-themed police show - which has been a great success - and put it up against another great success that is a New York-themed police show on a night that it dominates with an extraordinarily successful ratings lead-in from 'The West Wing.'
``There is simply no question in my mind that we cannot do as well on Wednesday nights.'
It wasn't that Bochco was necessarily against moving the show out of its longtime slot. In fact, he suggested to ABC holding out ``NYPD Blue' to January - which it had done the past two seasons - and then moving it into Mondays at 10 p.m. after the ``Monday Night Football' season.
So, says Bochco, ``being programmed on Wednesdays at 10 was kind of surprising. I don't think it's a smart move. But it's not my call.'
Once the move was made, Bochco then asked the network for a commitment for a 10th season next year. That wasn't forthcoming, and the lack of backing from the network was ``probably the single most disappointing thing that came out of all that.'
Needless to say, the top executives at ABC see things just a bit differently.
``The truth is there's virtually no free ride anymore for any network in any time slot on any night,' says Lloyd Braun, co-chairman of ABC Entertainment. ``We didn't feel we had the luxury of keeping 'NYPD Blue' on the shelf until January. ...We felt 'NYPD Blue' would improve our performance significantly on Wednesday nights.'
In the end, Braun insists, it's the network's call.
``We do not - as much respect as we have for Steven Bochco and our other creators - go to them to sign off on the time slots they're going to be given,' he says. ``Did we give Steven an audience and explain to him the rationale for the move prior to making it? You bet we did.'
``At the end of the day, we have to do what we think is in the best interests of our network and our company.'
Still, that leaves viewers having to make a choice between two aging but still sturdy dramas. It's a dilemma even ``Law & Order' producer Dick Wolf regrets.