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Not all shows are survivors in the ratings war

Networks ready revised TV lineups

graphic
James Dreyfus and Bette Midler in "Bette"  

HOLLYWOOD, California (CNN) -- "Titans" is cancelled. "The Michael Richards Show" may not make it to Christmas.

And so the casualties grow in the ratings war.

NBC has fired the latest shots, killing "Titans," Aaron Spelling's primetime soap, after just one week in its new Monday time slot. Michael Richards' sitcom is the next likely target.

"A lot of critics have said it's just not that good of a show, the premise is just kind of silly," says TV Guide's Ted Johnson.

The survivors?

There's Regis Philbin -- again. The show he hosts, ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," eclipsed "The Michael Richards Show" on Tuesday, then followed that by beating "Bette" on CBS the next night.

  ON TV
 

"Millionaire" has led ABC to a narrow sweeps win, if not an overall victory in this ratings war. NBC remains tops in the 18-to-49 viewer market, that golden, cash-spending demographic.

What about some of the fall season's other new offerings? They can forget about making top 20, 30 or even top 50 in Nielsen Media Research's latest numbers. Many, in fact, lately have struggled to crack the top 70.

Among them:

  • "Gideon's Crossing" (ABC): a medical drama starring Andre Braugher.
  • "That's Life" (CBS): a family ensemble led by Heather Paige Kent.
  • "Bette" (CBS): a sitcom featuring Bette Midler.
  • "The Michael Richards Show" (NBC): a detective spoof starring former "Seinfeld" player Michael Richards.
  • "Normal, Ohio" (Fox): a sitcom featuring "Roseanne's" John Goodman playing a gay father.

The lackluster performance of shows featuring recognizable names will prompt some soul-searching among network executives, predicts TV Guide's Johnson.

graphic
"DAG" with Delta Burke and David Alan Grier  

"There's going to be a lot of rethinking of this kind of concept (to) sign the deal with a star, then create a show around them," he says. "A lot of people are going to be saying, 'Shouldn't we do it the other way around? Shouldn't we create a show and then find a star?' "

Another "name" offering, ABC's "The Geena Davis Show," also has stumbled lately after NBC latecomer "DAG" went up against the sitcom on Tuesdays.

One of the few stars of the new season, NBC's "Ed," moves into a new time slot this week, preceding "The West Wing" on Wednesdays.

NBC has high hopes for the series, about a lawyer who moves back to his hometown, buys a bowling alley and woos a woman he remembers from high school. The show is "probably across-the-board the best new show of the year in terms of the production values and the quality of the acting and storytelling," says Scott Sassa, NBC's West Coast president.

So far, "Ed" and the Steven Weber sitcom "Cursed" are the only NBC freshman shows guaranteed to finish the season.

CBS cancelled "City of Angels," but has given "Bette" a vote of confidence with orders for another full season. CBS also has approved orders for Craig T. Nelson's "The District" and Tim Daly's "The Fugitive." The network's break-out hits are the lesser-promoted "Yes, Dear" and "C.S.I."

Tom Cavanagh as "Ed"  

Fox, meanwhile, has created a new star in "Dark Angel's" Jessica Alba, and its "Boston Public" has boosted its Monday night viewership by 97 percent over last year.

Fox programming vice president Preston Beckman calls "Boston Public" a "franchise."

Mid-season replacements are waiting in the wings. Fox has "Grounded for Life," starring Donal Logue from the independent feature film "The Tao of Steve" (2000). NBC's "Kristin" pits an aspiring actress from the country against her playboy, city-slicker boss. "Kiss Me Guido" on CBS makes an odd couple of two roommates -- one gay, the other straight.

Look for a dose of reality in the new year, too, as CBS unleashes "Survivor: The Australian Outback," the sequel to its rat-eating ratings buster, "Survivor." The new show premieres January 28, right after Super Bowl XXXV.



RELATED STORIES:
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December 6, 2000
Forensic sleuthing comes to prime time on 'C.S.I.'
November 21, 2000
Star of Tomorrow: Tom Cavanagh of 'Ed'
November 15, 2000
Big names come to the small screen
September 29, 2000

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