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Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2000

City of Angels’ gets second chance at life

September 28, 2000

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"City of Angels" may soon be on life support if more people don't start watching.

The second-year medical drama, which returns to the CBS lineup for its fall season debut Oct. 5, is trying to make TV history as the first drama series with a predominantly black cast to stay on the air and become a success.

"We feel blessed that we have an opportunity to come back for a second season," producer Steven Bochco told TV critics this summer.

"City of Angels," which tells the stories of a Los Angeles hospital and its largely minority staff of physicians and nurses, stars Blair Underwood and Michael Warren. Both are Bochco veterans from the Emmy-winning glory days of "Hill Street Blues" (Warren) and "L.A. Law" (Underwood).

But with "City of Angels," there's been a special challenge.

Born amid last season's controversy about the lack of racial and ethnic diversity on network TV, "City of Angels" made its debut in January and received a big promotional push from CBS.

But after a strong initial start, "Angels" soon faltered.

The audience levels dwindled and the erratic storytelling occasionally stalled out. Though "City of Angels" may have died right there in any other year, CBS was caught in a racial sensitivity bind. After all of the hullabaloo about diversity, how can you pull the plug on the most prominent black drama to hit the airwaves in years?

So CBS boss Leslie Moonves did the smart thing and gave "City of Angels" a second chance, thanks to a big assist from the show's loyal fans.

But the "City of Angels" that returns in October will be changed from the one that existed last season.

While "City of Angels" sometimes wandered off into prominent subplots involving county politics last season, it will keep this year's focus firmly on the doctors and medical matters.

Two promising new cast additions include "Bring It On" star Gabrielle Union and "Homicide: Life on the Street" veteran Kyle Secor, both of whom join the hospital staff.

"One of the problems I think we had last season is we had Blair's character, Dr. Ben Turner, and a bunch of residents who kind of followed him around," said Bochco. "And it didn't provide enough opportunity for legitimate dramatic conflict."

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