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Networks face up to new world

(CNN) -- The television broadcast networks are continuing to juggle fall schedules in light of the attacks on New York and Washington last week.

Television's premiere week, which was supposed to begin Monday night, has been pushed back to September 24. Even then, network executives wonder if anyone will watch -- or care.

"Right now, whether it's the (baseball) pennant race or a new TV series, it's hard to care about things that seem trivial in comparison," one exec told Daily Variety.

"There's been a huge shock to the collective consciousness," NBC scheduling head Mitch Metcalf agreed. "I hope people will be ready on the 24th to sample new shows. But they may not be," he told Variety.

This year happens to have a wealth of cloak-and-dagger shows, such as Fox's "24" and CBS' "The Agency." Already some episodes have been re-edited, and more re-editing may be on the way. Moreover, despite glowing reviews for "24" -- hailed as the new season's best new offering by a number of publications -- the question of whether audiences will want to watch it or its brethren spy shows is still up in the air.

The public's reaction to the new shows, along with the uncertainty of current events, will have a major reaction on the networks' bottom line. With the dot-com bust and economic downturn, this season's profit picture was already looking less rosy. Now, the gathering war clouds may prompt budget and staff cutbacks.

Emmy changes

They've already prompted changes in one of television's showpieces, the Emmy Awards. The ceremony, originally scheduled for September 16, is now set for October 7. Producer Don Mischer has scrapped much of the evening's entertainment and is working on something with an upbeat, emotional tone.

The new show "will be unlike any Emmys that have ever taken place," promises incoming Academy of Television Arts and Sciences chairman and CEO Bryce Zabel, in an interview with Variety.

Nothing, apparently, is certain. The show may turn into a tribute or a fund-raiser. The red carpet walk may be altered. And not even the host, Ellen DeGeneres, may stay on, though she is expected to remain.

'The age of irony will be over'

Viewers can expect a change in future TV programming as well.

"There's been a paradigm shift," one insider told Variety. "Viewers are going to be looking for different themes in their programs. The age of irony will be over. You'll see more escapism, more warmth, more heroism, more patriotism."

Every trend is up in the air. Reality shows, which fill the fall schedule, may become colder than a meal left out overnight -- or just the kind of escapism people are looking for. Variety shows, which had a strong summer entry with "The Wayne Brady Show," may make a comeback. And situation comedies, few of which have become breakout successes in recent years, may become hip again.

One thing's for sure: it's a different world.

"Every writer, every producer, every executive will be looking at the stories they tell through a different set of eyes," said one network official. "The world has changed, and that will affect how people tell stories. There are no boundaries now when it comes to evil and unpredictability."

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