We can just see 60 Minutes veteran Mike Wallace's reaction a couple of months ago, when--while power-lunching with the newsmag's legendary producer, Don Hewitt, and CBS Television president Les Moonves--the network exec proposed his idea of expanding his top-rated program to two nights a week:

"Oh, come on...You've got to be kidding..."

But it's true. Looking to capitalize on the profitable programming trend of scheduling several hours of newsmagazines each week (see Dateline NBC and ABC's 20/20), CBS reportedly wants its Top 10-rated 60 Minutes to pull double duty, airing twice a week.

As an added bonus, the network's new $20 million man Bryant Gumbel would handle anchor chores on the second 60 Minutes. (CBS is still hoping to get its money out of Gumbel, whose own Public Eye ranks a miserable 82nd in the Nielsens.)

Problem is, 60 Minutes' stalwarts don't want to share the stopwatch.

"This broadcast makes the best soup anybody ever made," the 75-year-old Hewitt, in his 30th year helming the franchise he created, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "If somebody figures to put a little water in the soup, you'd probably get two bowls for one. But we're not in the watering-the-soup business."

Meanwhile, the soon-to-be-80-year-old Wallace--and the rest of the program's correspondents--worry that Hewitt would be stretched too thin if the program were doubled.

"Don Hewitt is absolutely essential full-time to 60 Minutes. Period. End of report," Wallace said to the Inquirer. And if the decision was made for Hewitt to head both programs? "I'm out of the ball game," Wallace added.

"You can only produce so many Rolls-Royces," 60 Minutes resident curmudgeon Andy Rooney told the paper. "If you started turning out a couple of hundred thousand a year, you'd have a Chevrolet."

Fine, the show's correspondents--including veterans Morley Safer, Ed Bradley, Lesley Stahl and Steve Kroft--seem to be unanimous in their feelings about expansion. But would Wallace--arguably the star of the newsmag game--really walk?

"I don't know what I'd do," he tells the Inquirer. "I would reason with them. I don't believe I would have to quit...We are under contract. There's not much we can do about that, is there?"

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