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The Gazette
Montreal, Quebec
Jan 5, 1993

Battle isn't over to save TV's Homefront

HAMILTON - It's all quiet on the Homefront these days.

And that's such a shame.

Because, like CBS's Brooklyn Bridge and NBC's I'll Fly Away, ABC's excellent
post-war drama series, Homefront, is one show that really deserves better.

A lot better.

I don't know. Maybe those highly paid network executives in Hollywood just
don't get it. They can't seem to grasp a simple concept.

When it comes to high-quality TV shows, you need to give them a chance
to grab their audiences. You can't go bouncing them around the schedule
and then throw up your hands and claim nobody cares enough about them.

Sheesh! You'd think Hollywood would have learned that lesson back in the
'80s, when low-rated shows like Cheers and Hill Street Blues were left
alone so they could establish their audiences. They ended up becoming major,
money-making hits.

Bounced around schedule

But have network TV executives learned that lesson?


They still keep bouncing quality shows around so that even the most dedicated
fans have trouble finding them. That virtually assures low ratings, which
then gives network henchmen the evidence they need to swing their axes.

In the case of Homefront, ABC has a well-written show that is brimming
with charm, class, wit and warmth. The characters are all likeable - even
in their nastier moments - and the show's blend of 1940s nostalgia and
1990s sensibilities has helped forge a thoroughly absorbing ensemble drama.

So, I was more than eager to meet with one of the show's co-stars and help
her make a pitch to save the series.

Co-star Jessica Steen visited Hamilton last week as part of a midseason
promotional blitz arranged by Warner Bros. Television, the studio that
bankrolls Homefront. The blitz is part of a big lobbying effort by the
show's producers to recruit fans and help bring the series back to the

Set just after World War II, Homefront revolves around a handful of families
who live in a small city near Cleveland, Ohio. And although it has never
been a runaway ratings hit, the series has attracted a good core of viewers
- that is, when those viewers can find the show.

The series started out on Tuesday nights last season, carving out a promising
niche for itself. But then, ABC programmers decided to use Homefront as
a counterprogramming tool against NBC's Cheers, and they moved it to Thursdays.

That's when the trouble started.

The show has been constantly pre-empted by specials, holidays, and assorted
other programming obstacles this season - to the point where the show's
last telecast, on Dec. 17, ended up in 82nd place among the 114 series
on the prime-time schedule.

Strong-willed character

So, it probably shouldn't have come as a surprise when ABC announced last
month that Homefront would be going on "indefinite" hiatus.

"It was the most disheartening thing," sighs Steen, the Toronto native
who plays the part of Linda Metcalf, the strong-willed, independent young
woman who is somewhat of a postwar trailblazer on the show for the modern-day
women's moment.

"We've had such a raw deal. The time slot we got this year was so steep,
against Cheers. And then they kept pre-empting us and running reruns. So,
we had, I think, probably a total of two or three new shows in the span
of two months."

Indeed, in order to find the show's last two consecutive first-run telecasts,
you'd have to go all the way back to the beginning of October.

Steen does remain optimistic over the fate of Homefront. Production is
continuing on the remaining episodes for this season, and ABC has indicated
the show will be back some time in the spring.

For her part, Steen has good reason to hope for the show's return. Her
character was a pivotal one throughout the first season.

"She's a `do-er,' definitely," says Steen. "I really admire her. She is
outspoken. She is caring. She is intelligent. There are a lot of things
about her that I like and that I would hope other people say I have in
common with her."

Most of the episodes aired this year, though, have focused on the romantic
storms buffeting Linda's brother, Jeff (Kyle Chandler), and his ex-girlfriend,
Ginger (Tammy Lauren). But that is slated to change.

"In the last few shows that we've shot, Linda's storyline has come into
the forefront again," says Steen. "She's working at the newspaper, and
working on a story, investigating it, being a reporter, and having an affair
at the same time."

There are other intriguing storylines in store, too. Among them is a show
dealing with Gina (Giuliana Santini) and her memories of escaping from
a concentration camp. And, of course, there will be the continuation of
the polio storyline involving Linda's mother, Anne (Wendy Phillips).

Letter campaigns can work

Although Steen sounds hopeful when talking about Homefront's future, she
likes to stick to a simple philosophy.

"I'm the kind of person who hopes for the best and expects the worst, you
know," she says. "Life goes the way it's supposed to."

Still, that's not to say Steen is content just to sit back and wait for
the worst to happen. Like Linda Metcalf, she is keen to do her part to
help Homefront's cause.

And there is definitely something fans of Homefront can do, too, to strike
a blow for Homefront and for quality television as a whole.

In the past, letter-writing campaigns in Canada and the U.S. have helped
resurrect several TV shows. (Cagney & Lacey was one of the most famous
examples.) And that's what the producers of Homefront are counting on now.

* Viewers keen on adding their voice to those who want Homefront back on
the air can write to ABC's top dog and let him know just how they feel.
Send those cards and letters to: Robert Iger, President, ABC Television
Network, 2040 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, California 90067.

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