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Can Jerry's Kids Make It on Their Own? NBC Places a Bet Women Will Roar on Mondays


Have people been watching "Suddenly Susan," "The Naked Truth" and "Fired Up" only because they aired between "Seinfeld" and "ER"? NBC will put that question to the test next season by moving those shows--as well as another former "Seinfeld" companion, "Caroline in the City"--to Monday night.

In doing so, the network eliminates its Monday movie and takes on CBS' popular comedy block, anchored by "Cosby" and "Cybill," as well as Fox's aging serial "Melrose Place."

NBC will market the Monday programs as a female-oriented alternative (all four star women) to "Monday Night Football," billing the night as "Women Who Work."

NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield, who presented the prime-time lineup to advertisers Monday, claimed NBC enjoyed "an embarrassment of riches" in explaining the decision to offer two-hour blocks of sitcoms Monday through Thursday night.

Still, some programs that have drawn a big audience Thursday, sandwiched by "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "ER," have floundered when asked to stand on their own. A recent example would be "The Single Guy," which the network canceled after the show delivered meager ratings on Wednesdays despite two years following "Friends."

In addition to "The Single Guy," NBC has canceled "Boston Common," "The Jeff Foxworthy Show," "Dark Skies," "Mr. Rhodes," "Something So Right" and "Chicago Sons," while "Wings" will air its finale next week.

NBC also dropped "Unsolved Mysteries," whose producers are trying to place the program on another network. The show has received endorsements from various law-enforcement officials, including the FBI.

Overall, NBC has scheduled a whopping 18 comedies for the fall, including six new half-hours. The network added just two new dramas and scheduled a fourth hour of the news program "Dateline NBC."

NBC's boldest move may be shifting "3rd Rock From the Sun" from Sundays to Wednesdays, surrounded by three new comedies, including a show starring Tony Danza. Meanwhile, the network will ask the first-year sitcom "Men Behaving Badly" to replace "3rd Rock" opposite "The Simpsons" and "Touched by an Angel."

The new programs are:

"Veronica's Closet": Kirstie Alley plays a nationally known romance expert who has her own problems, including a philandering husband (Jamey Sheridan). The sitcom, from the producers of "Friends," inherits the post-"Seinfeld" berth.

"Union Square": NBC's other new Thursday comedy is an ensemble show set in a "Cheers"-like restaurant.

"The Tony Danza Show": After flopping two years ago with a comeback attempt on ABC, the "Who's the Boss?" and "Taxi" star returns as a separated sportswriter raising two daughters.

"Jenny": MTV host Jenny McCarthy plays a woman who moves to Hollywood and becomes a celebrity's assistant.

"Built to Last": Comic Royale Watkins plays an Ivy Leaguer who takes over the family construction business in this African American comedy, which co-stars Paul Winfield. (NBC didn't schedule any sitcoms with minority leads last year.)

"Working": Fred Savage ("The Wonder Years") plays a young man trying to climb the corporate ladder, in a comedy with overtones of "How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying)."

"Players": The latest drama from "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf stars rapper Ice-T and Costas Mandylor ("Picket Fences") as street-smart felons used by the FBI to hunt down criminals.

"Sleepwalkers": This science-fiction show focuses on the Morpheus Institute, whose researchers (including "St. Elsewhere's" Bruce Greenwood and "ER's" Abraham Benrubi) have found a way to enter people's dreams.

At its presentation to advertisers Monday, NBC played the "Hallelujah Chorus" when Littlefield mentioned the renewal of "Seinfeld" for another season after an arduous negotiation, while the executive drew groans from the audience when he noted that NBC has the opportunity to improve its ratings Tuesday with "Roseanne" going off the air, saying, "Yes, the fat lady has sung."

NBC has at least partial ownership in five of its new series, meaning the network can cash in on selling rerun rights if the shows become hits. Federal rules limiting how many programs a network can own were eliminated two years ago.

As the top-rated network, NBC's choices will likely affect how the other networks configure their schedules. ABC, CBS, Fox and UPN will unveil their prime-time rosters next week, while WB officially presents its lineup today.

Here's NBC's fall lineup night by night:

Sunday: "Dateline NBC," "Men Behaving Badly," "Jenny," movie.

Monday: "Suddenly Susan," "Fired Up," "Caroline in the City," "The Naked Truth," "Dateline NBC."

Tuesday: "Mad About You," "NewsRadio," "Frasier," "Just Shoot Me," "Dateline NBC."

Wednesday: "The Tony Danza Show," "Built to Last," "3rd Rock From the Sun," "Working," "Law & Order."

Thursday: "Friends," "Union Square," "Seinfeld," "Veronica's Closet," "ER."

Friday: "Players," "Dateline NBC," "Homicide."

Saturday: "The Pretender," "Sleepwalkers," "Profiler."

Times staff writers Greg Braxton and Jane Hall contributed to this article.

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