BY JOHN KIESEWETTER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
So there's David Letterman, Jay Leno, Donny & Marie . . .
Donny & Marie Osmond?
Yes, when I list the big fall talk show winners, I put Donny & Marie's comeback in the same sentence with Dave and Jay.
No, I haven't lost my mind. Former teen idols Donny & Marie, who starred in an ABC prime-time musical-variety series (1976-79), could charm their way back into viewers' hearts at 9 a.m. weekdays starting Sept. 21 on Channel 5.
And the biggest talk show loser could be the Roseanne Show, which debuts Sept. 14 (3 p.m., Channel 5).
Here's the deal:
David Letterman: CBS has high expectations for a big Late Show rebound this fall. One word: football.
Mr. Letterman's highest ratings came on Mondays in 1993, the last year CBS had NFL games. CBS folks look forward to promoting him when the NFL returns to CBS next month.
CBS also figures that Mr. Letterman will get a huge boost from ABC's Monday Night Football kicking off at 8 p.m. this fall, instead of 9 p.m. Games should end about 11:30 p.m., when Mr. Letterman starts. Jay Leno: How can both The Tonight Show and CBS' Late Show be winners? Because viewers will see twice as much of Mr. Leno.
NBC will ditch the overnight NBC News Nightside in September in favor of week-old reruns of The Tonight Show and Sunset Beach. WLWT (Channel 5) plans to air NBC's Tonight Show repeats at 4:05 a.m., but not the soap rerun.
Channel 5 also will carry NBC's "classic" Saturday Night Live repeats early Sunday morning, following the live SNL, and NBC's repackaging of Dateline reports for use late Sunday - early Monday.
Advertising sales for the overnight reruns "are already five times what we had for Nightside," says NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield.
Donny & Marie: Imagine a younger Regis & Kathie Lee hosting the Rosie O'Donnell variety show.
Donny, 40, and Marie, 38, have a natural charm and a wealth of experience. They have lots of nostalgic 1970s video to embarrass show biz pals on the new Donny & Marie.
And their old fans now are parents with teens swooning over Hanson and the Spice Girls, as girls did when Donny sang "Puppy Love."
"Marie and I have basically come of age where it's OK for us to acknowledge all that stuff," says Donny, who has sung rock, toured in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, voiced a role (Shang) in Mulan and fathered three sons since the first Donny & Marie show.
"Getting back together was inevitable," says Marie, who has sung country, made movies, co-founded the Children's Miracle Network, starred on Broadway (The King and I) and had six children since 1979.
"We are what we are," she says. "We're going to have a good time."
Roseanne: Already the vultures are circling Roseanne, who has been unable to explain where she fits on the daytime dial between Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer.
"It's kind of a little bit of everything. We'll be a little bit like Oprah, and a little bit like Rosie," she told TV critics in July.
"Any ideas we have now are constantly changing. They're very fluid," she said later. "By the time we get on the air, they'll continue to be fluid."
She doesn't have a clue. So syndicators are readying replacements starring Joan Lunden, Martin Short or Queen Latifah.
Look at this way: If Roseanne makes it to Thanksgiving, at least she will have outlasted Magic Johnson (9 weeks) and Chevy Chase (3 1/2 weeks).
John Kiesewetter is Enquirer TV/radio critic. Write him at 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, 45202.