Faced with disappointing results in prime time, ABC will usher in the new year with a major scheduling overhaul that includes moving its critically acclaimed drama "The Practice" from Saturday to Monday nights.
That shift means producer David E. Kelley will have two series playing back to back Mondays on different networks: "The Practice" will air at 10 p.m., preceded at 9 by his Fox drama "Ally McBeal."
The ABC series, which the network already has renewed for next season, will face off against "Dateline NBC" and "Brooklyn South"--the marginally rated new CBS drama produced by Steven Bochco, who mentored Kelley by giving him his first TV job as a writer on "L.A. Law."
Beginning Jan. 5, after "Monday Night Football" closes its season, ABC's eclectic Monday lineup will consist of "America's Funniest Home Videos," the news program "20/20" and "The Practice."
ABC's scheduling changes also include relocating the controversial drama "Nothing Sacred," about a Catholic priest, as well as the crime series "Cracker" from Thursdays to Saturdays, followed by a still-untitled news program.
ABC will fill the void left Thursdays by introducing a sci-fi drama on Jan. 15 titled "Prey," about a new breed of man bent on destroying humans. The network will offer a movie at 9 p.m., meanwhile, rather than sacrifice more series opposite NBC's "Seinfeld" and "ER."
Sources questioned how much the changes will benefit ABC--in essence, shuffling programs struggling on one night to another on which the network is in equal trouble. A rival network executive likened the maneuvers to "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."
ABC, now ranking third in total prime-time audience, has characterized this season as a rebuilding year. All the networks will tinker with their lineups next month.