Q: I recall a program during the early '70s that rotated three different shows (at least I think it was three) each week. One was "Columbo," another was "McMillan and Wife" but I cannot remember the third. Could you help jog my memory?
A: NBC tried several experiments with so-called "wheel" programming in the '60s and '70s, rotating specific shows in a single time slot. One effort was an NBC Mystery Movie, which originally consisted of "Columbo," "McMillan and Wife" and "McCloud," the last a drama starring Dennis Weaver. According to "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows," that lineup proved so successful that NBC moved it from Wednesdays to Sundays and tried a different Wednesday set: "Madigan" with Richard Widmark, "Banacek" with George Peppard and "Cool Million" with James Farentino.
Over the years, the mystery wheel also included shows such as "Hec Ramsey," "The Snoop Sisters," "Tenafly," "Faraday & Company" and "Amy Prentiss." But the only show to come near the success of the three original mystery movies was "Quincy, M.E.," with Jack Klugman, which went from part of the wheel to a separate hourlong drama.
'Zoo' vs. 'Prey'
Q: I have seen promos for "Zoo," based on a book by James Patterson. Years ago there was a series called "Prey" starring Debra Messing. It only lasted a year as Debra left to do "Will & Grace." Is this the same show? If not, was it also based on Patterson's book?
A: The shows are not the same, and "Prey" is not based on a Patterson book. (And, by the way, Messing did not leave the show for "Will & Grace." "Prey" was canceled and she landed a new job.) Anyway, "Prey" involved advanced-DNA mutants out to destroy us regular folks. According to CBS, "Zoo" is "a global thriller about a wave of violent animal attacks against humans sweeping the planet" — what is the underlying cause of those attacks?
Can Fox Sports take a mulligan?
Q: Fox Sports' coverage of the U.S. Open is abysmal. How did they land the contract?
A: I can't speak to the quality of the coverage, since I did not watch it, although there was plenty of criticism in addition to yours. As for how Fox Sports got the event, it was the same reason that other sports have changed video venues: money.
Fox has been working very hard to build interest and audience for its Fox Sports 1 channel and its network, and the Fox company overall has long been willing to spend big to get what it wants. In 2013, it made a 12-year deal for U.S. Golf Association events, including the Open, by offering far more than NBC and ESPN had been paying. How much more varied depending on which report you read — Fox and the USGA weren't saying — but it was believed to bring tens of millions more per year to the USGA. And, as Golfweek.com observed, "the association depends heavily on its broadcasting revenue as the primary source to foot the bills."
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