Tarses-Morton Split Blamed for Sitcom Downfall

Producers say breakup helped cause cancellation of ABC's Over the Top

By Daniel Frankel Nov 10, 1997 11:35 PMTags
The fall sitcom carnage always leaves a few disappointed producers griping about how their network didn't do enough to promote and generally support their program.

Now that ABC's Annie Potts-Tim Curry sitcom Over the Top is officially over, its producers are complaining about those same things and more. It was not only bad ratings that killed the show, they say, it was quite possibly bad love--specifically, the failed romance between Robert Morton, one of the show's five executive producers, and the network's entertainment chief, Jamie Tarses.

Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer Friday, producer Mitchel Katlin stopped short of saying the breakup killed the show--he really couldn't, considering it had just scored ABC's worst-ever ratings for a non-rerun-filled Tuesday night. But he did say the split between the former Letterman producer (he was called "Morty" then) and the much-derided Tarses (who's also in charge of the network's promotional efforts) hurt Over's survival chances.

"You have a show starring Tim Curry and Annie Potts...a show that was funny and had huge potential, a show that ABC owned half of," Katlin told the Inquirer. "When it gets put on three times without promotion, you say to yourself, 'There have to have been issues here that caused its demise.'"

Katlin adds that the show's 8:30 p.m. time slot--which had the adult-oriented Over being fed its audience by the family-friendly Soul Man at 8:00--also hurt. "Certainly, Tuesday night, the way they constructed it, didn't help us."

ABC spokeswoman Eileen Kurtz had no comment Monday when asked whether the network had given Over the Top its fair share of all-important promotion.

Controversy of any kind is the last thing the 33-year-old Tarses needs. It was widely speculated last summer--with the network in third place and struggling--that the groundbreaking female television executive would be replaced. But ABC gave her another chance. So far, all she has to show for it are catchy yellow billboards and more Home Improvement reruns.