BY JOHN KIESEWETTER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Once CBS got National Football League telecasts back, the network decided to punt on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. It's that simple.
As much as Jane Seymour and her fans want production of the quality family drama series resumed, it won't happen. The best they can expect is a Dr. Quinn TV movie, though Ms. Seymour has balked at signing a deal.
"We are going after more males and a more urban audience this season," CBS Entertainment President Les Moonves said.
"We have more shows set in urban places, and more programs with male faces in them."
Which means CBS has no more room for an 1870s country doctor. So Dr. Quinn was body-slammed to the turf by the macho, macho men of CBS, who are high-fiving themselves at the prospect of sacking NBC and vaulting into first place next season.
"I don't think we can underestimate how much the loss of (NFL) football had hurt us four years ago," Mr. Moonves said about losing NFC rights to Fox in 1994.
Men 35 and younger "weren't watching anything on CBS over the last four years. We lost that group entirely," he said.
Even David Letterman's woes were blamed on coughing up football. His ratings peaked in 1993, when Late Show promotional spots aired during NFL games.
So CBS spent $4 billion over eight years to acquire the AFC games from NBC. Then CBS tailored a fall schedule for its Sunday afternoon male audience, with companion shows for Nash Bridges (10 p.m. Fridays) and Walker, Texas Ranger (10 p.m. Saturdays).
Joining the CBS lineup will be Buddy Faro (9 p.m. Fridays), starring Dennis Farino as a 1970s-style detective uncomfortable with 1990s technology, and Martial Law (9 p.m. Saturdays), starring Hong Kong martial arts actor Sammo Hung.
Mr. Moonves claimed that Sammo Hung didn't knock Dr. Quinn off the air. That was done by Early Edition, a family drama about a guy (Kyle Chandler) who gets tomorrow's newspaper a day early, which moved from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays.
CBS research revealed that the female audience for Early Edition equaled Dr. Quinn, while the male audience was greater than that for Dr. Quinn. Touchdown!
Early Edition "should have the same sort of appeal to the Dr. Quinn viewers as Dr. Quinn did. It's a family show, a feel-good show," Mr. Moonves said.
So CBS cut Dr. Quinn without warning. "We were all stunned," Ms. Seymour told TV critics last month.
Ms. Seymour said she was interested in CBS' Dr. Quinn movie, though waiting to see a script. Apparently, she's hoping that CBS will be flooded with more letters from fans after Dr. Quinn reruns start airing on Pax TV, the new seventh commercial network, launching Aug. 31. (Pax TV will be carried by Butler County's TCI and Northern Kentucky's InterMedia cable.)
"I don't think that Dr. Quinn is over. I think this is going to give new life to Dr. Quinn," she said. "If the demand is huge enough, CBS is going to say, "We need more of these.' "
That's not going to happen. CBS already has more family-friendly series than any other network.
"We still have Touched by an Angel, Promised Land, The Magnificent Seven, Early Edition and our Sunday night movie franchise," Mr. Moonves said. And Cosby.
Sad to say, all CBS wants is a two-hour Dr. Quinn finale -- and lots of guys watching football, Martial Law, Nash Bridges, Buddy Faro and David Letterman.
John Kiesewetter is Enquirer TV/radio critic. His column appears Monday and Wednesday. Write: 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax: 768-8330.