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Long-form summer ahead for ABC News

Jun 3, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Summer has become a time during which network news divisions stretch their wings.
This summer will be no different as CBS’s “48 Hours” again works to make crime pay off ratingswise with murder mysteries on Mondays, and “Dateline NBC” uses its Friday time slot to shelter a multipart series on firefighters.
ABC News hadn’t planned, however, to present an unprecedented summer slate of three documentary-style series-15 hours altogether-in addition to assorted specials and routine magazine programming this summer. “It’s not so easy to get airtime in the summer,” said Phyllis McGrady, ABC News’ senior VP for early morning, prime-time and news program development. “Everybody thinks it is, but it’s not that easy at all.”
Instead, complications-many of which were an expected part of the process and one of which no one could have predicted-conspired to create ABC’s long-form summer.
“Boston 24/7,” which begins its six-night run at 10 p.m. Tuesday, was in the works even as “Hopkins 24/7” began airing last August. Just as “Hopkins” offered an all-access look at the people who make a famous hospital work, “Boston” will shadow a number of Bostonians, including Mayor Thomas Menino, who invited the cameras along as he campaigned for re-election and bargained with angry firefighters behind closed doors.
Shooting had been largely completed and editing had begun when “Sept. 11 happened,” Ms. McGrady said. “Everything stopped … obviously,” she said.
When editing resumed in November, a January delivery of the show was out of the question.
“State V.,” which opens the doors to the Maricopa County, Ariz., criminal justice system-and its jury rooms-starts at 10 p.m. Wednesday, June 19. The series was born of a brainstorming session four or five years ago between Ms. McGrady, producer Michael Bicks and legal analyst Cynthia McFadden. There were exhaustive searches for a system that would let ABC News cameras in, followed by a year of filming that ultimately focused on five homicide cases.
“ICU-Arkansas Children’s Hospital,” which will run at 10 p.m. Wednesdays in August, focuses on life and death in a pediatric heart transplant ward.