04/25/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT
On TV, I always say, desperation is the mother of invention. When NBC was No. 3, it tried everything, even Manimal, but kept failing until it finally tried quality: Hill Street Blues, Cheers, St. Elsewhere, Cosby. Now NBC is No. 1, fat but no longer sassy, making safe but stupid shows like The Highwayman. So now it is ABC's turn to receive the dividends of desperation. As the No. 3 network, with nothing to lose, ABC bravely began to create the freshest shows on TV: Moonlighting, then The Wonder Years, now China Beach (reviewed below). Thanks to shows like these, ABC rose to No. 2. Next it is CBS' turn to be the Littlest Network and to do dumb, desperate things (like almost killing Coming of Age). But someday CBS, like NBC and ABC before it, will learn that good, gutsy programming is the only escape from ratings hell.