For Angry Ch. 6 News Viewers, The Theme Was: `Drop The Music'

Posted: October 02, 1996

Action News' short-lived experiment with ``Name That Tune'' hit a sour note with viewers. (``Disastrous debuts'' for $200, please, Art.)

In case you missed it, WPVI's new Action News theme song lasted exactly four days. It ran on 11 newscasts, beginning Sept. 20 on the 5 p.m. show, with Marc Howard and Lisa Thomas-Laury. By 5 p.m. Sept. 23, after hundreds of angry calls and e-mail hits, the new theme was history.

Budget-wise, that translates to about $2,000 a play. (Coffee money for Jim Gardner.)

'PVI hired a total of 400 musicians from the London Symphony and London Philharmonic to perform a slower, lusher version of the 22-year-old Action News theme at a recording session in London in June.

Cost of the deal was about $20,000, according to Channel 6 insiders. The price was a bargain, too, because 'PVI was piggy-backing on a previously scheduled London session for Mount Laurel's NFL Films. (NFL Films has worked with Channel 6 on several station promos.)

The big question, of course, is why change the music when it's gone platinum?

If Action News has learned anything in its long reign atop the local Nielsens, it's this: Don't fool with the formula. (Dave Roberts' weather map still features Magic Marker-drawn smiling clouds, for heaven's sake.)

``We worried that the theme needed freshening, largely because of technological advancements,'' says a 'PVI spokeswoman, Valarie Staab. ``Music recorded in the '70s doesn't sound as clear and true as music recorded in the '90s.'' About 2 1/2 years ago, 'PVI had the tracks from the theme ``cleaned up,'' she adds.

When viewers began flooding the switchboard almost immediately after the new theme began, 'PVI news chief Dave Davis, for one, was stunned.

``I didn't realize how emotionally attached people were to our theme. I'm certainly willing to admit we made a mistake. It was an inexpensive mistake when you consider the lesson we learned - `Listen to the viewers.' At least we knew enough not to change the actual tune. That's our national anthem.''

Unlike 'PVI viewers, anchor Howard says he ``hardly noticed the new music, but I don't sit and listen to it, either. I didn't realize how accustomed people are to what we do here every day. I'm amazed and impressed at how much Action News means to viewers. Even the little stuff.''

For the morbidly curious, the new theme didn't get on the air until Sept. 20 because that's when PVI's new fall ``open'' premiered. Each seasonal ``open'' runs on a three-year cycle.

For Peete's sake. The Eagles' Monday Night Football loss to Dallas was a disaster for Birds quarterback Rodney Peete, but it did wonders for WPVI and ABC.

The homeboys' heartbreaking 23-19 loss, featuring a season-ending injury to Peete, scored a 19.7 rating and 32 percent audience share in the national Nielsens between 9 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. (Each rating point equals 970,000 homes.)

That's the highest rating among five MNF contests this season, ABC says, upping MNF's season average to a 17.7. ABC's highest-rated program, MNF is up 4 percent in rating over the same period last year.

Locally, where each rating point equals 26,457 homes, the game delivered a huge 39.5 rating/56 audience share on Channel 6. Still, Philadelphia ranked behind Dallas in the top 33 markets. The Cowboys notched a 47.9/62 in their hometown.

Reality bites. Buzz in the biz is that ex-NYPD Blue star David Caruso wants to return to series TV. But there's a major hitch.

The carrot-topped Caruso leads the pack to star in a new legal drama from author Nick Pileggi (GoodFellas) and veteran producer John Romano (Fox's Class of '96), sources say. Lead character in the Columbia-TriStar project is a crusading U.S. attorney based loosely on New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former prosecutor.

Here's the hitch: To do the series, Caruso needs formal approval from ABC and NYPD producer Steven Bochco. And that approval may not come cheap.

In one of the major miscalculations in recent Hollywood history, Caruso stomped off Bochco's hot ABC drama early in the second season with thoughts of a big career on the big screen. (Wrong-o, Caruso.) To be granted his walking papers, Caruso signed a deal not to work in TV before 1998.

Sharing time. CBS and Children's Television Workshop (home of Sesame Street) have joined forces to produce children's programming for the Eye.

According to CBS honcha Lucy Johnson and CTW chief Emily Swenson, the joint venture will develop at least three half-hour series for CBS's Saturday-morning lineup, with one to debut in fall '97. The companies will share ownership of the shows.

CBS currently has two hours of FCC-qualified kids programming on its weekly lineup - Beakman's World, Bailey Kipper's P.O.V., Secrets of the Cryptkeeper's Haunted House and CBS Storybreak. New FCC regulations require local stations to carry three hours weekly of ``quality'' children's shows.

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