CBS and ABC, assured of losing to NBC again in the prime-time ratings race this season, moved Thursday to get a jump on next season by announcing the scheduling of five more new series in the weeks ahead.
As with the two new series they introduced this week (CBS' "Spies" and ABC's "Harry") and the six others that already have been slotted for premieres in the next three weeks, the networks are less interested in reaping immediate ratings rewards with these new entries than in testing their potential to help next season.
The latest series to get tryouts for the CBS fall lineup are:
--"The Popcorn Kid," a comedy from MTM about a group of high-school students who work at a movie theater in Kansas City. It will premiere March 23 at 8:30 p.m., then will be seen Fridays at 8:30 p.m. beginning March 27. The series stars Bruce Norris, Raye Birk, Jeffrey Joseph, Penelope Ann Miller, John Christopher Jones and Faith Ford.
--"Roxie," a comedy spinoff from "Kate & Allie" in which Andrea Martin, formerly of the acclaimed "SCTV" comedy series, plays the wacky programmer at a small, underfinanced TV station. It will air Wednesdays at 8 p.m., starting April 1.
--"Kooper with a 'K,' " starring George Segal as a put-upon public-relations executive. This comedy, which will follow "Roxie" at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, also stars Melanie Chartoff, Severn Darden, Jim Haynie, Derek McGrath, Todd Fields and Bruce Jarchow.
ABC, on its way to finishing third in the prime-time ratings for the third year in a row, gave air dates Thursday to two series:
--"Max Headroom," an attempt to transform the video character's cult success into mass popularity, will be broadcast Tuesdays at 10 p.m., following "Moonlighting," as of March 31. In this new version, the Max Headroom who has been the host of his own talk show on British TV and on cable here in the United States will be the alter ego of an investigative reporter (Matt Frewer) whose access to TV monitors helps uncover wrongdoing.
--"Mariah State," an hourlong drama set inside a prison. It will temporarily replace "Hotel" on Wednesdays at 10 p.m., beginning April 1. The cast includes John Getz, Tovah Feldshuh, William Allan Young, Susan Brown and Renee Lippin.
ABC also said that it will add another movie package to its schedule, on Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m., beginning March 20.
Both networks said that the addition of new shows did not require the formal cancellation of others at this time. The series being replaced either will move to new time slots or will be put on hiatus, pending determination of the fall schedules later this spring.