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Old 03-06-2005, 09:27 PM   #1
Great8
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Default A Glimmer of Hope?

This article from the San Jose Mercury News says that NBC has told Jonathan Prince not to strike the sets and to begin negotiating a lease agreement for next season for the studio space. He also says then can cancel in a nanosecond, but at least it's a little hopeful!

`American Dreams' could become only a memory
SIGNS INDICATE NBC SHOW MAY FACE SAME FATE AS EARLIER WELL-MADE FAMILY DRAMAS: CANCELLATION
By Charlie McCollum
Mercury News

Network executives, advocacy groups and ordinary viewers all say often -- and loudly -- that they want more family shows on television.

But here's the funny thing: When good family-focused dramas and comedies actually do surface, they more often than not vanish within months. The closer the show gets to real life, and the more willing it is to deal with substantial issues, the more likely it is to evaporate quickly.

TV's recent history is littered with good shows about the American family (``Once and Again,'' ``Freaks and Geeks'') that died of neglect, either from those who put them on the air and then backed off or from viewers at home who refused to watch. This season, the series considered in danger of cancellation in the spring includes a fistful of family dramas: CBS's ``Joan of Arcadia,'' the WB's ``Jack & Bobby,'' UPN's ``Veronica Mars'' -- and NBC's ``American Dreams.''

Set in the Philadelphia of the 1960s, this good (sometimes very good) show centers around the middle-class Pryor family: father Jack, wife Helen and their four children: Meg, JJ, Will and Patty. Much of the action takes place on ``American Bandstand'' where Meg and her closest friend, Roxanne Bojarski, are among the regular dancers. And the Pryors' lives overlap with those of the Walkers, a black, working class family striving to break out of the tenements.

Over its three years on the air, ``Dreams'' has used its setting in the turbulent decade to explore themes that still resonate today: race, abortion, the conflicts between parents and children, women's roles in society, the culture clashes that America goes through periodically.

While the show occasionally lapses into banality and predictability, it more often has been engaging, thoughtful entertainment with a great sense of its time and place. Its cast -- notably Brittany Snow as Meg, Tom Verica and Gail O'Grady as her parents and Vanessa Lengies as Roxanne -- certainly has evolved into one of the better ensembles on TV.

But this season, ``Dreams'' has been cut down to 18 episodes (most network dramas do 22) with its season ending early, on March 30.

Moreover, it has been yanked out of its 8 p.m. Sunday spot -- where it was getting hammered by CBS's ``Cold Case'' and, in particular, ABC's ``Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.'' The final four episodes will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m., starting this week.

The competition on Wednesdays? ``Lost,'' the ABC juggernaut, and the Fox Wednesday lineup that includes ``The Simple Life'' and something called ``American Idol.'' And the WB's ``Smallville'' draws young women who form an important part of the ``Dreams'' audience.

Ouch.

Jonathan Prince, the series' co-creator, executive producer and full-time salesman, has known for some time that ``Dreams'' has been standing on shaky Nielsen ground with an audience that has slid below 8 million.

``Sunday nights, we came up against this beast called `Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,' '' Prince says. ``It took away tons of viewers from our show when we had been doing pretty well, even against `Cold Case.' This just destroyed us.''

As a result, he says, the show is ``on some sort of strange bubble'' in terms of renewal for a fourth season. ``Our future will be decided by, first, how do we do in March in terms of viewership? And secondly, how is NBC doing in developing new shows for next season?''

In Prince's mind, NBC certainly could do a lot worse than to keep ``American Dreams'' around. He points out, correctly, that the show still draws one of the most affluent, educated audiences in television. And it's a rare show that draws an even mixture of older and younger viewers.

``There simply aren't very many shows you can watch with your kids,'' Prince notes.

And right now, none of the new shows NBC is considering for next season could be considered a family drama, which suggests to Prince that ``they may live or die with us.''

Which may explain why, so far, NBC is hedging its bets.

The network is playing up the Wednesday move as an attempt to put together two top American dramas -- ``Dreams'' and ``The West Wing.'' In addition, says Prince, NBC executives have told him not to strike the sets and to begin lease negotiations for another year at the studio where the show is filmed.

``Every bit of behavior indicates they want us to continue production,'' says Prince. ``Might they still pull the plug? In a heartbeat.''

That, folks, would be too bad.

So, to the executives at NBC: Give ``American Dreams'' the benefit of the doubt. You've got plenty of other holes on your tattered schedule to worry about. Come the fall, you can relaunch ``Dreams'' at 8 p.m. on Fridays where it might flourish in the spot once held by family dramas such as ``Providence.''

And viewers: Give ``Dreams'' a chance this month and tune in. Wednesday's episode, which includes Meg Pryor's graduation from high school in 1966, is particularly good, and ``Lost'' is airing a repeat, as it will for much of March. The only way to really help this show is to prove it still has an audience.

``If you like `American Dreams,' '' says Prince, ``this is the time to say so. This is the time when it would help.''

`American Dreams'

***

Airing: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Chs. 8, 11

Creator: Jonathan Prince

Cast: Tom Verica, Gail O'Grady, Brittany Snow, Vanessa Lengies, Will Estes, Arlen Escarpeta, Rachel Boston, Sarah Ramos, Jonathan Adams, Ethan Dampf
Contact Charlie McCollum at cmccollum@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5245.

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercu...s/11065451.htm
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