Cliches fly faster than the speed of light in this movie tinseltown which has now also become TV tinseltown. The three commercial networks are hard at work at this very moment stamping out with their cookie-cutters new shows that they blithely describe in the cliched language of this ''laid back,'' ''uptight,'' ''spread out'' city of the angels.
Los Angeles today is the sun- and smog-soaked sanctuary of every major producer of commercial network television shows, the source of the river of stereotypes that floats its hackneyed banalities north and east throughout America from its southern California wellspring.
I traveled west recently to discover just what the vendors of warm bodies were cooking up in their magic-box kitchens to feed to their human merchandise (basically what the networks sell is numbers of viewers to advertisers; selling the shows to viewers is almost secondary). I talked with network executives, producers, directors, writers, and actors in their lairs. And everywhere I found the same cliches on the lips of those people responsible for the 22 new television series now in the process of being manufactured for the fall season, scheduled to start the week of Sept. 26, except for NBC's ungrammatical ''We Got It Made,'' which will supposedly have it made Sept. 8.
Let's start with a 1983-84 season lexicon. The five cliches in most common use, not all of them new by any means, but all current: high concept, skew, traction, hammock, and anchor. I will more or less define them and then never use them again. But to understand TV seriesmaking this year, one must really understand these five terms:
* High concept: a spoofing definition, according to NBC programming Wunderkind Brandon Tartikoff. It means ''any show that needs to be explained to the press corps more than once.'' The term is used seriously to describe any show with a complicated concept, often excruciatingly contrived. A prime example of high concept: ''Manimal,'' an NBC series about a do-good professor who uses his unnerving ability to transform himself into various animals to solve crimes.
This really needs more of an explanation than I am willing to give.
* Skew: slant, usually demographically speaking. A producer skews a show toward the youth audience.
* Traction: staying power. This used to be called ''wheels.''
* Hammock: The time slot between two highly rated shows, often filled by one of less-certain acceptance that may cause a temporary dip in a network's evening ratings. This is an old term, but even more in use this year. For example, ''Goodnight, Beantown,'' slotted on CBS on Sunday night between ''The Jeffersons'' and ''Trapper John,'' may prove to have a hammocking effect.
* Anchor: No, in the programming context this is not the host of the the news , but rather a dependable mainstay of a show that - it is hoped - will assure the network of enough viewer interest to anchor the audience on that network for the rest of the evening. ''60 Minutes'' on CBS on Sundays is that kind of show. ''The A-Team'' on NBC on Tuesday is another such show.
Now that we've got the cliches out of the way, we can move on to the 1983-84 season - in itself one big cliche . . . with just a few redeeming factors among its 22 new series.
I managed to see the pilot or view some footage or talk to the producer of just about every new show. Let's take them one network at a time:
CBS is playing it coy; it can afford to, since it seems to be so securely in first place. Only five new shows are being offered at the start of the season. But insiders predict a lot of new series are being held in the offing as late ''second season'' entries.
Emerald Point, N. A. F. (Mondays, 10-11 p.m.) is a creation of Esther and Richard Shapiro, who were responsible for ''Winds of War'' and ''Dynasty.'' So you can guess the direction this Dennis Weaver Navy serial drama will be taking. According to the producers, ''the Navy stands for commitment'' in the eyes of many Americans, and the show will focus on such seemingly outmoded human qualities as honor and high moral standards. That doesn't mean there will be no sex, however, they hasten to add.
After M*A*S*H (Mondays, 9-9:30 p.m.). This Korean war field hospital comedy is being transplanted to a small town in Missouri, with the principal holdovers being Colonel Potter, Corporal Klinger, and Fr. Mulcahy. In the skillful hands of Larry Gelbart, CBS might be able to pull off a miracle and somehow salvage a new ''M*A*S*H.'' (Nothing available to see; it had to be bought on faith in Gelbart.)
Other new CBS series:
Scarecrow and Mrs. King (Mondays 8-9 p.m.) has ''Charlie's Angel'' Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner in a slick CIA variation of ''Hart to Hart.''
Whiz Kids (Wednesdays, 8-9 p.m.). Computer theft by youngsters is the theme of this fantasy-jeopardy show. A ''War Games'' rip-off.
Cutter to Houston (Saturdays, 8-9 p.m.). Still another variation on ''Medical Center.'' You've seen it all many times.
Under the aegis of Grant Tinker, NBC has already managed to climb out of the quality cellar, despite its current season ranking as the third of three networks in Nielsen ratings. It managed to snare almost twice as many Emmy nominations this year as the No. 1 network, CBS.
Next season NBC hopes to add a few major successes to its current big-audience winners - ''Hill Street Blues'' and ''The A-Team.'' The new NBC shows reveal what Tinker calls ''a mixed-bag schedule.'' Which seems to mean a few ''quality'' shows slipped in among several long-shot oddities. Tinker, by the way, says he no longer uses the word ''quality.'' Instead, he refers to shows ''which hit the targets we aim at.'' And he made some (for him) rather rough references to CBS: ''I suspect that three nights of movies indicates a bankruptcy of program ideas.'' CBS has scheduled Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday night movies.
All signs point to a good year for NBC, with many of the new shows standing a fair chance of catching the erratic fancy of American TV audiences.
Following are the nine new NBC shows in the order in which I like them. This may have no relationship to their future success, since placement in the schedule has a great deal to do with their chances for reaching large audiences:
Boone (Mondays, 8-9 p.m.) has one major thing going for it: Earl Hamner. He is the creator of ''The Waltons,'' and in this new series he says he thinks he has ''the best thing I have written since 'The Homecoming.' '' ''Boone'' traces life in Nashville in the 1950s through the life of Boone Sawyer and his family. It stars newcomer Tom Byrd, an actor who can also sing (four songs per show). Hamner promises valid family values and some perspective on country music and rock-and-roll, which he considers authentic American folk arts. ''It's the only show this year with a mom and a pop and a family,'' says Hamner.
The Yellow Rose (Saturdays, 10-11 p.m.) is a contemporary Texas serial, reminiscent of ''Giant,'' ''Hud,'' and, of course, ''Dallas.'' Chock full of stars - Sam Elliott, David Soul, Cybill Shepherd, Edward Albert, and Susan Anspach - according to NBC programmer Tartikoff, this show ''will keep alive the myth of the modern-day American cowboy.'' Executive producer John Wilder says his show is ''about human success - 'Dallas' is about human failure'' - and his heroes are ''real heroes rather than J.R. Ewing-type antiheroes.''
Bay City Blues (Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m.) is another creation of Steven Bochco, executive producer of ''Hill Street Blues.'' Although no pilot was ever made, it was bought by NBC on faith in the talent of Bochco, who says the show ''is more than a show about small-town professional baseball; it focuses on people directly involved with the team or on the fringes of the game.'' He says he believes that ''baseball is a pervasive part of the fabric of our culture, although you don't have to like baseball to like the show.''
For Love and Honor (Fridays, 10-11 p.m.) - a kind of ''Officer and a Gentleman'' rip-off, this takes place in a US airborne battalion with one of every minority and lots of military camaraderie. Gives fair shake to women in military service.
Mr. Smith (Fridays, 8-8:30 p.m.) has nothing to recommend it but a gorilla with an IQ of 256 who goes to Washington (''Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,'' get it?) and the Ed Weinberger-Stu Daniels ''Taxi'' team. Sounds as if it might turn out to be clever satire, but TV experts recall that, supposedly, ''satire is what closes on Saturday night.'' So Weinberger refuses to say it is satire.
The other NBC entries: We Got It Made (Thursdays, 9-9:30 p.m.), a lighthearted sexist rip-off of ''Three's Company,'' about two bachelors and their live-in blonde housekeeper. The producer described it as ''a good old-fashioned American sex comedy . . . where nothing happens.''
Jennifer Slept Here (Fridays, 8:30-9 p.m.) stars Ann Jillian as the ghost of a movie star who haunts the room of the teen-age boy who now occupies it. Shades of ''Topper'' and ''The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.'' Vaguely distasteful.
Manimal (Fridays, 9-10 p.m.), already described under High Concept (see above). Well, it does have concept, if nothing else.
The Rousters (Saturdays, 9-10 p.m.). Descendants of Wyatt Earp are now raucous carnival troubleshooters. Chad Everett returns with lots of violent action.
ABC is running scared. Or should be. Its old favorites have begun to rot on the vine. Say goodbye to ''Laverne & Shirley.'' How much longer can ''Three's Company'' and ''Happy Days'' hang in there? And, unfortunately for ABC, the 1984 Olympics are still a year away. Here's what ABC programming executives are throwing into the 1983-84 hopper, my favorites first:Hardcastle and McCormick (Sundays, 8-9 p.m.) stars old favorite Brian Keith as a retired curmudgeon judge who sets up sting operations to catch criminals who evade the system. Smacks a bit of vigilantism, but with good scripts could take off on an original route.
Oh Madeline (Thursdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) has hilarious Madeline Kahn going for it. It's supposed to poke fun at a married couple's concurrent midlife crises. According to Miss Kahn, the show will be ''a mix of character and farce, outrageous and physically silly.'' Nothing was available for showing except Miss Kahn, dressed in red tights, white pumps, and a pink-striped shirt down to her knees. ''Who's wacky?'' she insisted when I talked with her.
Arthur Haley's Hotel (Wednesdays, 10-11 p.m.) seemingly can't miss. The pilot episode is a kind of dry-docked ''Love Boat'' with lots of little intertwined stories about people who come to a San Francisco hotel (a la Fairmont). Bette Davis is the hotel owner and, depending upon health, will appear regularly in short segments. Anne Baxter is also a regular, as is James Brolin as the hotel manager.
The other new ABC shows are:Just Our Luck (Tuesdays, 8-8:30 p.m.). Call this one ''I Dream of Mork.'' It's about a black stereotypical genie (black stereotype, not genie stereotype) who . . . oh, well, you know . . . .
Medstar (Thursdays, 8-9 p.m.) Used to be called ''Trauma Center,'' so you can guess what it's about. Still another ''Emergency.
''It's Not Easy (Thursdays, 9:30-10 p.m.). The most confusing pilot of the year - filled with wives, husbands, ex-wives, ex-husbands, mothers-in-law, and ex-mothers-in-law. Whose kids belong to whom? They are all neighbors. According to the producer, the show reflects the changes in our society.
Webster (Fridays, 8:30-9 p.m.). Newlyweds Alex Karras and Susan Clark become instant parents to a black youngster. Predictable comedy.
Lottery (Fridays, 9-10 p.m.). IRS and lottery officials deliver winnings. Only 18 states have legalized lotteries, so the show is on borderline legal ground. You've seen it all in ''The Millionaires.'' According to the producer, it is ''the first positive portrayal of the IRS.'' His philosophy is ''Money makes you happier,'' so the shows will concentrate on the uplifting effect of winning.
If none of the above interests you, there's always the Public Broadcasting Service. PBS will start airing its new shows in October (with some even later) with what seems to be one of the best schedules in its history.
You can count on such PBS delights as a new season of American Playhouse, Masterpiece Theatre, and Great Performances. There's also the new Smithsonian World and Chemical People, as well as the returning Nature, National Geographic Specials, Nova, and Frontline.
Serious students of world events can look forward to Vietnam: A Television History, the extended MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, and Inside Story. Special treats are Dinner With Julia (Child, that is) and more Live From the Met, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera.
All of the aforementioned commercial shows and schedules are subject to change before the networks start airing them in September. Last-minute maneuvering has become a part of the scheduling game. That's the prerogative the networks retain for themselves.
But never forget that you, the viewer, hold the greatest prerogative of all: the right to turn off the TV set if you don't like the programs they have chosen for you.