IN the midst of uncertainty as to when the 1988-89 commercial television season will actually begin, the three networks have announced their new schedules, which include a total of 18 hours devoted to 22 new programs. The continuing writers' strike has already made it evident that the original plan to start the season in the first week of September cannot possibly be carried out. According to Kim LeMasters, president of CBS Entertainment, ``If the strike were to end today, we might be able to start the season in the middle of October.''
Brandon Tartikoff, president of NBC Entertainment, insists that the season will somehow begin earlier. NBC is especially eager to start sooner rather than later, since it will carry both the summer Olympics and the World Series, which under ordinary circumstances would send NBC off to a running start in the ratings in an early-starting season.
Among the new shows there are nine half-hour situation comedies and 12 one- or two-hour dramas. If there is any discernible trend in the all-encompassing potpourri of new programming, it would seem to be a continuing effort on the part of all three networks to engage viewers in ``interactive'' programming `a la ``Thirtysomething'' on ABC. As Mr. LeMasters of CBS puts it: ``Our new shows touch people ... promote emotions. Viewers will not be able to passively sit back. We challenge them.''
Following is a rundown of all the new shows as of today. Keep in mind, however, that there is still a wait of five or six months before the actual season will begin. That gives all networks ample opportunity to change their minds as they rethink their decisions, reexamine their choices, re-schedule competitively. So think of these shows as being tentatively on the ``Early 1988-89'' schedule.
NBC The five new one-hour dramas:
The Magical World of Disney (Sundays 7-8 p.m.) A rotating blend of Disney classics, new series, updates, and specials.
Midnight Caller (Tuesdays 10-11 p.m.) Gary Cole stars as an ex-cop-turned-radio call-in-show host.
Unsolved Mysteries (Wednesdays, 8-9 p.m.) Robert Stack hosts reenactments of unsolved crimes and urges viewers to help solve them.
Tattinger's (Wednesdays 10-11 p.m.) ``St. Elsewhere'' executive producer Bruce Paltrow is co-creator of this drama about a New York restaurateur. Marvelous cast is headed by Stephen Collins and Blythe Danner. Tartikoff says it's got ``heart and smarts.''
Something Out There (Fridays, 9-10 p.m.) Based on the miniseries about tracking down a murderous monster from another planet. ``Not just another alien-of-the-week show,'' Tartikoff promises.
The three new half-hour comedies:
Baby Boom (Wednesdays, 9i:30-10 p.m.) Based on the motion picture, Kate Jackson (``Charlie's Angel'' and ``Mrs. King'') stars as a high-powered executive who unexpectedly inherits a child.
Dear John (Thursdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) Judd Hirsch plays an abandoned husband in search of a new life.
Empty Nest (Saturdays 9:30-10 p.m.) Widowed pediatrician with two daughters, living in Miami near ``The Golden Girls,'' will undoubtedly interact.
Missing from the schedule but still in production for possible return: The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.
CBS The three new one-hour dramas:
Almost Grown (Mondays, 10-11 p.m.) The relationship of a New Jersey couple through three decades ('60s,'70s,'80s), with an emphasis on the music that binds them together.
Paradise (Thursdays, 9-10 p.m.) The story of an 1890s gunfighter (Lee Horsley) who inherits his sister's four young children.
TV 101 (Time slot not announced) A young journalism teacher (Sam Robards) returns to his alma mater high school to bring the school newspaper into the television age. Producer is Grant Tinker's GTG Entertainment.
The five new half-hour comedies:
Dirty Dancing (Saturdays, 8-8:30 p.m.) Based on the film. Patrick Cassidy stars in 1960s drama about two young people at a vacation resort - he a working-class dance instructor, she the daughter of the proprietor.
Close to Home (Saturdays, 8:30-9 p.m.) When Mom leaves home to ``discover herself,'' teen-age daughter and Dad adjust to being alone ... with the help of neighbors. Produced by GTG Entertainment.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (Wednesdays, 8:30-9 p.m.) Still untitled, this series will concern the separate but shared lives of Mary (an independent divorcee) and Edward Moore (a recently widowed engineer), and their families. Produced by MTM, Mary's own company.
Murphy Brown (Mondays, 9-9:30 p.m.) Candice Bergen stars as the star reporter of a TV-news program.
The Van Dyke Show (Wednesdays, 8-8:30 p.m.) Dick and son Barry star in comedy about the up-and-down relationship between a father and son who work together in a struggling theater company. Still another production of GTG Entertainment.
Still in production for possible scheduling: Frank's Place, Kate & Allie, and Jake and the Fat Man. Sorely missed and definitely gone: Cagney & Lacey.
ABC The four new dramas:
A Fine Romance (Sundays, 8-9 p.m.) A funny American lady and a reserved British gentleman host a hit TV series that travels through Europe. ABC describes it as a ``homage to the screwball comedies of the '40s.''
Knightwatch (Thursdays, 8-9 p.m.) Ex-gang members found a community-watch organization. Borderline vigilantism.
Murphy's Law (Saturdays, 8-9 p.m.) George Segal stars as an unconventional insurance investigator with a questionable past.
The ABC Saturday Mystery Movie (Saturdays, 9-11 p.m.) Peter Falk, Burt Reynolds, Louis Gossett Jr. rotate as stars of a series of new unrelated movies. Falk recreates Colombo.
One new comedy:
Roseanne (Tuesdays, 8:30-9 p.m.) Comedienne Roseanne Barr plays a blue-collar working woman in the 1980s, juggling husband, kids, home, and job - all with her unique brand of insult humor.
One new ``reality whatsit'':
Incredible Sunday (Sundays, 7-8 p.m.) ``That's Incredible'' oddity-reality team is back again, this time as a sacrificial lamb opposite CBS's ``60 Minutes.''
So there you have the schedules for network series. Count on seeing the premi`eres in September, October, November ... or even, who knows, in December!