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Need to generate plenty of Ink about a new product launching in crowded field? Attach some major star power to it and you'll likely land in Spin City.

Of the incredibly cluttered field of new prime-time TV shows-40 of them-launching during the 1996-97 network season, the ones with the biggest names, in front of and behind the camera, have generated a disproportionate share of media coverage in the period since the networks unveiled their new fall schedules last May.

Ranking on top of this week's Network Premiere Season Edition of SPINdex is perhaps TV's biggest star of recent history: Bill Cosby. Cosby's new CBS sitcom "Cosby" generated a SPINdex of 448 by attracting 59 stories in our sample of influential media outlets during the June-present pre-season launch period measured for this week's column.

"Cosby" attracted 59,413 words of copy from 49 newspaper, two network TV, one wire service, three newsweekly and four trade press stories. It was the only one of this week's SPINdex candidates to attract national TV coverage-1 minute of network newscast time.

Not far behind in media impressions was Brooke Shields' inaugural sitcom "Suddenly Susan." The addition to NBC's powerhouse Thursday night lineup drew 51 stories that devoted 47,309 words of copy, giving the show a SPINdex of 415. It didn't hurt that the show has been troubled by behind-the-scenes production turmoil that resulted in a complete overhaul.

Similar reports of revamps of other major new shows, including CBS' "Cosby" and "Ink," contributed to their news appeal.

When Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen began distancing themselves from early episodes of the latter during the network's spring press tour, it sparked a flurry of coverage that earned a SPINdex of 326 and tied "Ink" for fourth with SPINdex's favorite, "Spin City."

With none of the controversy surrounding the other star vehicles, the new ABC sitcom earned its SPINdex points purely on the appeal of series star Michael J. Fox.

Ranking third, with a SPINdex of 390, was CBS' "Public Morals," not because of any stars the police comedy ensemble has in front of the screen but one behind it, Steven Bochco, a press-savvy producer who has yet to score in the comedy milieu.M

Joe Mandese is senior VP of Myers Reports. Mark Weiner is VP of Medialink PR Research.

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