NEW YORK -- The 1985-86 prime time network television season officially opens on Sept. 23 -- and shortly thereafter it will be open season on programming executives.
Putting together a successful prime time network television schedule is part market research, part creative genius and part crapshoot. And the stakes are high.
A single episode of a one hour show costs about $750,000, while half-hour shows are priced at about $350,000 each.
Despite the mind-boggling pricetags, only a few new shows survive each season, and first season runaway hits such as 'The Cosby Show' (NBC) rare.
The prognosis for this season is no different. The most likely candidates for success are 'Hell Town' and 'Golden Girls' on NBC, 'Dynasty II: The Colbys' and 'Lime Street' on ABC and 'Twilight Zone' on CBS.
Here's a night-by-night rundown of the new shows, what they're about and how they are apt to fare. All times are Eastern.
No new shows on Monday night.
'Hometown,' CBS, 8-9 p.m. 'Hometown,' now previewing on Thursday nights, inspired by the movie 'The Big Chill,' is about a bunch of 1960s hippie-types who have turned Yuppy in the 1980s. The show is well-conceived and well-written but may be too sophisticated for the 8 p.m. time slot when kids control the dial. It has done well at 10 p.m. It is a woman-oriented show, slotted against NBC's macho 'The A-Team,' and two sitcoms on ABC.
'Growing Pains,' ABC, 8:30-9 p.m. Alan Thicke plays a psychiatrist who moves his practice to his home so his wife can go back to work. The audience for the show's lead in, 'Who's The Boss?', probably will stick around for the second half-hour, but it's a long-shot for success against 'A-Team.'
'Our Family Honor,' ABC, 10-11 p.m. Eli Wallach presides over a crime family, while Ken McMillan is the patriarch of a family of law-enforcers. The show has a gritty New York background and its multi-generation plot line suggests a miniseries, rather than an open-ended series. It is up against successful 'Remington Steele' on NBC and the CBS Tuesday Night Movie, which this season will be woman-oriented. It's a long shot.
'The Insiders,' ABC, 8-9 p.m. A journalist and an ex-convict team up as undercover reporters for a national news magazine in an action show that features designer clothes and contemporary music ala 'Miami Vice.' The youth appeal could pull viewers away from NBC's 'Highway to Heaven' and CBS's new 'Stir Crazy' has yet to establish an audience. It also should get early tune-ins from 'Dynasty' fans, the show into which 'The Insiders' leads.
'Stir Crazy,' CBS, 8-9 p.m. This action-comedy, which opens CBS's all new Wednesday night, is based on the movie of the same name, but without Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. The humor is strictly visual as two wrongly-imprisoned escaped convicts try to elude the law and find the tattooed man who is the real murderer. 'Highway to Heaven' and 'The Insiders' probably will bring this chase show to a speedy end.
'Hell Town,' NBC, 9-10 p.m. Robert Blake plays an ex-convict turned priest who keeps law and order in his chosen slum, mixing action, sentiment and chats with God in a show that is a programming match made in heaven with its lead in, 'Highway to Heaven.' The audience will be split between watching the good guys on NBC or the bad girls on ABC's 'Dynasty.'
'Charlie and Company,' CBS, 9-9:30 p.m. Flip Wilson and Gladys Knight are a middle class Chicago black family in a sitcom that attempts to follow the successful Bill Cosby formula. Judging by the pilot, they don't make it. In competition with 'Dynasty' and 'Hell Town,' this one's a poor third.
'George Burns' Comedy Week,' CBS, 9:30-10 p.m. George Burns hosts a comedy anthology, Steve Martin is the executive producer and plans call for cameo guest stars. The opening show is pleasant, which is not good enough to compete with 'Dynasty.'
'The Equalizer,' CBS, 10-11 p.m. Edward Woodward stars in an action adventure story as an ex-secret agent who serves as court of last resort for desperate people who have exhausted more conventional aid. He is a larger-than-life, suave but tough middle aged hero who operates out of a New York penthouse in a stylish show that could compete with ABC's 'Hotel' and NBC's 'St. Elsewhere.'
'Dynasty II: The Colbys,' ABC, 9-10 p.m. This 'Dynasty' spin-off will be introduced in mid-November. It offers Charleton Heston as patriarch Jason Colby, with John James as Jeff Colby and Emma Samms replacing Pamela Sue Martin as his ex-wife, Fallon. The show will attract 'Dynasty' fans, but it competes with two tough rivals - 'Simon & Simon' on CBS and 'Cheers' on NBC.
'The Twilight Zone,' CBS, 8-9 p.m. The return of 'The Twilight Zone,' with classy weird vignettes by such major talents as Ray Radbury and Stephen King, looks like an almost sure hit. Its fantasy-suspense genre can evoke more 'brand loyalty' from viewers than most anthology shows, and it is the lead-off show on a big CBS night, followed by 'Dallas' and 'Knots Landing.' The competition is 'Knight Rider' on NBC and 'Webster' and 'Mr. Belvedere' on ABC.
'Misfits of Science,' NBC, 9-10 p.m. Scientist Paul Dean Martin leads a group of weird superheroes in a comic strip action series. There's a telekinetic girl, a 7-foot scientist who can shrink to 7 inches, a rock star who shoots lightning from his fingertips and a hulk who freezes objects by touching them. An ad agency calls it 'Archie and the Incredible Hulk Meet Manimal.' The competition is 'Dallas' and ABC's 'Diff'rent Strokes' and 'Benson.'
'Spenser: For Hire,' ABC, 10-11 p.m. Robert Urich stars in a private eye series based on the 'Spenser' books by Robert Parker. He's a philosophical detective who works in a tenement but lives in Beacon Hill. The show is talky, but its on-location Boston setting gives it a new, provocative look. Its future is dim, however, because it must compete with 'Falcon Crest' on CBS and NBC's 'Miami Vice,' which has been doing splendidly in summer reruns.
'Hollywood Beat,' ABC, 8-9 p.m. A pair of aggressive, unorthodox undercover cops operate on the seamy side of the streetlife in Hollywood, while MTV-style music helps orchestrate car chases. The inspiration is 'Miami Vice,' the target audience is young, and the competition consists of 'Airwolf' on CBS and 'Gimme a Break' and 'Facts of Life' on NBC. It's a long shot.
'Lime Street,' ABC, 9-10 p.m. Robert Wagner stars as J.G. Culver, a jet set investigator for a London-based insurance company, whose two daughters live with his father, Lew Ayres, on a Virginia horse farm. Wagner will draw viewers to this slick adventure show, but the series has a tragic problem. One of Wagner's daughters was played by Samantha Smith, killed in an airplane crash last month. ABC hasn't decided how to handle that.
'The Golden Girls,' NBC, 9-9:30 p.m. Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty star in the funniest new show pilot of the season. Susan Harris of 'Soap' thought up this story of four women forced to share a Miami apartment in their senior years, which is how the show came to be nicknamed 'Miami Nice.' It may take time for viewers to sample the 'Girls,' but they are worth it.
'227,' NBC, 9:30-10 p.m. Marla Gibbs, who played the maid on 'The Jeffersons,' now acts as the meddling but warmhearted landlady of a rundown Chicago apartment building. '227' doesn't have the staff to compete with 'Lime Street' and the male-oriented CBS Saturday Night Movie.
'MacGyver,' ABC, 8-9 p.m. Richard Dean Anderson is an expert in survival and does his heroic best for the U.S. government in times of national crisis. He is likeable, handsome, death-defying but probably outclassed by Angela Lansbury's 'Murder, She Wrote'on CBS, and possibly by the Spielberg-Hitchcock hour on NBC.
'Amazing Stories,' NBC, 8-8:30 p.m. NBC has a two-year, 44-episode commitment to Steven Spielberg for this anthology of bizarre stories that will range from science fiction to updated fairy tales. The quality promises to be good, but so does the competition from 'Murder, She Wrote.'
'Alfred Hitchcock Presents,' NBC, 8:30-9 p.m. The slick Hitchcock anthology show will be 60 percent updated versions of stories that ran in the 1955-65 Hitchcock TV anthology, and 40 percent new scripts. Again, 'Murder, She Wrote' will prove tough competition.
That's how the new television season shapes up in September -- but don't make any bets on it.