Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: MONDAY, October 18, 1993                   TAG: 9310180011
SECTION: EXTRA                    PAGE: 2   EDITION: METRO 
SOURCE: Associated Press
DATELINE: LOS ANGELES                                LENGTH: Medium


Chevy Chase has reported the news many times: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Now "The Chevy Chase Show" is, too.

Chase became the first casualty of the late-night television wars on Sunday as Fox Broadcasting Co. announced it was canceling his show, effective immediately.

He began Sept. 7 and battled David Letterman, Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall and Ted Koppel for viewers. But his show was savagely mauled by critics, and it performed a ratings pratfall much as Chase himself had done in his famous sendups of ex-President Ford.

"Despite the commitment of Chevy and our best creative and production minds, we started slowly and did not perform to expectations," said Lucie Salhany, chairwoman of Fox Broadcasting. "We saw nothing to indicate that the show would turn around."

She thanked him "for giving us his best effort. He is an extraordinarily talented man."

In a statement released by Fox, Chase said: "I am proud of the comedic elements that we were able to intersperse throughout this otherwise very constraining format."

He added that he was looking forward to the February release of his new film, "Cops and Robbersons."

Less than a month after Chase's show appeared, an emergency team of writers, consultants and Fox executives was brought in to revamp the program.

Salhany said earlier this month that Chase was "very nervous. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing to watch it."

The show, she added, was marred by unfunny writing and Chase's lackluster interviews.

Frank N. Magid Associates, the noted Marion, Iowa-based research and consulting firm, was hired to work with Chase. Promotional and advertising efforts were halted until the show improved.

One month after its debut, the show settled into fourth place, averaging a 3.1 rating. One ratings point equals 942,000 TV homes.

No. 1 was Letterman's "Late Show," which averaged a 5.9 rating for CBS, followed by ABC's "Nightline," moderated by Koppel, at 4.9 and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" on NBC at 3.9. The syndicated "Arsenio Hall" was fifth, with a 2.1 rating. Fox had promised advertisers about a 4 rating.

The decision to cancel the show was a well-kept secret. Chase was told after Friday's show, Fox spokeswoman Betsy Hoffman said, but at midday Sunday an audience finder was still offering tickets for the show's taping to Venice Beach crowds. On Sunset Boulevard, a sign on the Chevy Chase Theater still proclaimed "Hollywood Welcomes Chevy."

Hoffman said Fox decided to abandon the show before the November sweeps period and that finding a late-night replacement - format and host to be decided - would be a priority.

"We're committed to building a late-night franchise," Hoffman said.

Meanwhile, Fox said it would broadcast reruns of "In Living Color" in the 11 p.m.-to-midnight time slot that "The Chevy Chase Show" occupied.

The 50-year-old comic lacked an interviewing background and rarely displayed the ease and humor he showed in the 1970s with NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

Actor Dennis Hopper said after a guest appearance that Chase was feeling the pressure.

"God, he is so nervous, I feel sorry for him," Hopper said. "He picks up a glass and he is shaking. . . . He has to relax."

In an interview of old "Saturday Night Live" cohort Dan Aykroyd, Chase appeared to ooze gratitude that his pal showed up.

"You know I'd do anything for you. I'll be here," Aykroyd said.

 by CNB