NEW YORK — Third-place ABC said Friday that it is temporarily removing the low-rated sitcoms "Life With Lucy" and "The Ellen Burstyn Show" from its schedule and replacing them with two new comedies next month.
"Lucy" stars Lucille Ball, who was attempting a TV comeback at age 74. Both "Lucy" and "Ellen Burstyn" aired on Saturday nights. They will be replaced on Nov. 22 by "Sidekicks" and "Sledge Hammer," two other new comedies that have fared better for ABC.
Those shows are being moved from Friday nights, and their old time periods will be filled by "Dads" and "Gung Ho," two new sitcoms that will premiere on Dec. 5.
"Dads" stars Barry Bostwick and Carl Weintraub as two single fathers sharing a house where they try to raise their teen-age children. "Gung Ho," starring Gedde Watanabe and Scott Bakula, is about workers at a Japanese-owned automobile plant in the United States, based on the movie of the same name.
The Ball and Burstyn series each will have had eight episodes aired when they leave ABC's schedule. A spokesman here said that the programs will return later in the season.
The low ratings of "Life With Lucy" doubtless disappointed executives at ABC, who had ordered 22 episodes made--a full season's supply--and hoped that Ball's popularity as a TV star in the '50s and '60s would prove as strong in the fall of 1986.
However, ABC Entertainment President Brandon Stoddard tried to put the best face on things. While Ball's series "didn't find its audience on Saturday night," he said in a prepared statement, "we look forward to our ongoing relationship with Lucille Ball, a star without peer in television and a lady with whom we're very proud to be associated."
ABC's announcements mark the network's first prime-time schedule shift this season as it tries to avoid a repetition of 1985-86, when it was third in prime-time ratings.
CBS, itself struggling and trying to avoid ending this season in the Nielsen cellar, canceled two new series earlier this month, "Better Days" and "Kay O'Brien," and temporarily took the new "Together We Stand" off the air.
NBC, winner of last season's prime-time ratings race and expected by the industry to win again this season, has made no schedule changes yet.