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4/27/2007 08:00:00 PM Eastern

A Sleepless Road for 'October' Producer

October Road
appears to be headed for a second season on ABC, but that may not be the best thing for Executive Producer Josh Appelbaum's health.

The rookie drama, about a young writer who returns to his hometown after trashing it in his novel, debuted March 15. That night, Appelbaum and two others stayed up until the first ratings came in the next morning at 8. When the numbers were good, superstition kicked in: They've pulled all-nighters after all six episodes.

“If we get picked up for 22 episodes,” he says, “I don't know how we are going to last.”

Indeed, the show has endured some challenges of its own. It was made only after ABC brought in media-investment giant Group M to co-finance it. The network didn't give it a six-episode order until October, when most of ABC's other rookies had already debuted. And marketing a character-driven drama as the similarly character-driven Six Degrees was bombing proved especially tricky.

Things began looking up when ABC gave it the plush post-Grey's Anatomy slot. Then the critics savaged it.

“That was brutal,” Appelbaum recalls. “To write the show off is one thing, but there seemed to be an active hatred towards us by critics.”

But, after October averaged a solid 4.4 rating in the 18-49 demo over its first five airings, two recurring cast members signed on to be regulars—a good sign for a second season.

As for those all-nighters, Appelbaum has the answer: “a lot of Red Bull.”

Tight Lip

Former View moderator Meredith Vieira sure plays 'em close to the vest when it comes to discussing recent developments at her old workplace. Not that it hasn't come up.

Since Vieira left the ABC morning show last year to be a co-host on NBC's
Today, The View has been a hot topic, what with last summer's departure of longtime panelist Star Jones and the controversial tenure of Rosie O'Donnell. But when the subject inevitably arises on Today, Vieira clams up.

In December, while discussing O'Donnell's feud with Donald Trump, NBC's David Gregory asked Vieira, “You want to weigh in on this?” “No, not really,” she said.

But just last week, after O'Donnell announced she will leave the show, Vieira seemed close to talking. While interviewing media critic Michael Wolff, who surmised that everyone at The View was feeling “a great sense of relief” over O'Donnell's departure, Vieira noted her own nine-year tenure and predicted her old colleagues would “do OK.”

“Well,” countered Wolff, “do you think that they're breathing a sigh of relief?”

“I say nothing,” she said as she wrapped the interview. (Damn her discretion!)

Of course, Vieira may have already betrayed her reasons for being silent about The View.

Back in January, while discussing, yes, the ongoing O'Donnell/Trump feud, she joked, “I'm just upset that their ratings have gone up since I left the show, you know? But whatever.”

Off Message

NBC marketing guru-turned-scheduling-chief Vince Manze is all about the message. So, when many in the TV-production community misinterpreted his recent comments about reviving NBC's event programming, it had to hurt.

Since remarking earlier this month that he hoped to emulate NBC's history of producing miniseries and other sweeps spectacles, Manze has been inundated with messages from producers heralding the return of a genre that has virtually disappeared from network television in recent years.

Apparently, something was lost in translation.

“I'm looking to experiment on Sundays,” says Manze in an effort to clarify his remarks. “If someone has an idea, why close the door on it? If Steven Spielberg has the next Taken and wants to come to you, you want him to know that you are open to that.”

In a move right out of his old playbook as president/creative director of The NBC Agency, Manze is looking at using comedy movies, specials and, yes, maybe even miniseries in January and February after football, rather than trying to launch new series.

But he emphasizes that it is simply an experiment, not a large-scale programming-strategy shift. Got it?

With Ben Grossman and Jim Benson

September
October