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CBS, UPN Reveal Fall Plans

Television * CBS renews 'City of Angels,' but 'Chicago Hope,' 'Now and Again' and 'Martial Law' are canceled.

May 18, 2000|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CBS may be introducing a reality series titled "Survivor" later this month, but the survival rate on new TV programs continues to make them look like an endangered species.

Only one in three series introduced last fall by the six broadcast networks will return for a second season, as the two broadcast networks owned by Viacom, CBS and UPN, put the finishing touches on their prime-time lineups, bringing the process of revising TV schedules for next season near its close.

UPN, the only network other than ABC to achieve ratings gains this year thanks to the wrestling program "WWF Smackdown!," will schedule two new action-oriented dramas on Friday nights hoping to cash in on that young male audience: "Freedom," a high-tech show from blockbuster movie producer Joel Silver; and "Level 9," focusing on an elite unit fighting cyber-crimes.

The fledgling network will shift its Friday movie to Tuesday nights and seek to strengthen its Monday block of African American comedies with "The Hughleys," which will move over from ABC; and "Girlfriends," a new sitcom starring Tracee Ross, singer Diana Ross' daughter. The show is produced by "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer's production company, which has a deal with Paramount.

"The Hughleys," starring comic D.L. Hughley, becomes the second ABC series drafted to play a key role for one of the emerging networks next season. The WB has picked up "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," which will provide the cornerstone of its Friday night lineup.

UPN has dropped "Dilbert," "Shasta," "Malcolm & Eddie," "The Beat" and "Secret Agent Man." The network will have one more year of "Star Trek: Voyager" but has already announced that the fourth prime-time incarnation of the long-running sci-fi franchise will end next spring.

CBS, meanwhile, confirmed a schedule with seven new series that leaves only two nights unchanged, either adding programs or moving shows into new time periods every night but Sundays and Tuesdays.

The network is banking on a big-name star, Bette Midler, trying to establish a second beachhead for comedies on Wednesday nights. CBS again begins the season with only six sitcoms on its schedule (compared to a dozen dramas)--fewer than any competing network except UPN.

CBS enjoyed some success this year with the new dramas "Judging Amy" and "Family Law" but dropped all of its first-year sitcoms. The dearth of comedy has been a problem for CBS, which has the oldest demographic profile among the broadcast networks, depressing the rates it is able to charge national advertisers--especially big-spending soft drink, fast-food and dot-com outfits catering to youth.

Addressing reporters in New York, CBS officials acknowledged that public-relations considerations regarding last season's lack of ethnic diversity in prime time played a part in the decision to renew the struggling "City of Angels," the medical drama from producer Steven Bochco, which is the only prime-time drama featuring a predominantly African American cast.

Still, CBS Television President Leslie Moonves maintained that wasn't the main reason behind the decision. "If it wasn't good, it wouldn't have been picked up," he said.

CBS chose not to order "American Family," from filmmaker Gregory Nava, which would have been the first Latino dramatic series on a major network.

"It was a good pilot, but we were loaded with drama," Moonves said. "It just didn't fit. We felt we had things that fit better for us." CBS said it is still hoping to do more projects--perhaps a made-for-TV movie--with Nava.

Several borderline series have been canceled, including "Chicago Hope," "Now and Again," "Early Edition," "Ladies Man" and "Martial Law," which, starring martial arts expert Sammo Hung, was the only prime-time show with an Asian lead.

Bill Cosby's latest sitcom, "Cosby," also concluded its run in April. Other programs left off the schedule include "Candid Camera" and "Kids Say the Darndest Things," the latter hosted by Cosby.

"Falcone," a mob drama that drew poor ratings when the network ran several episodes in a weeklong stretch earlier this season, will get a more conventional once-a-week replay this summer--holding out the chance of additional episodes if viewers respond.

Five of CBS' seven new programs are produced at least in part by the network or Paramount, both divisions of parent company Viacom.

Here is CBS' new prime-time lineup (new shows in italics):

Sunday: "60 Minutes," "Touched by an Angel," Movie.

Monday: "King of Queens," "Yes, Dear," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Becker," "Family Law."

Tuesday: "JAG," "60 Minutes II," "Judging Amy."

Wednesday: "The Bette Show," "Welcome to New York," Movie.

Thursday: "48 Hours," "City of Angels," "Diagnosis Murder."

Friday: "The Fugitive," "C.S.I.," "Nash Bridges."

Saturday: "That's Life," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "The District."

Here is the new UPN lineup (new shows in italics):

Monday: "Moesha," "The Parkers," "The Hughleys," "Girlfriends."

Tuesday: Movie.

Wednesday: "7 Days," "Star Trek: Voyager."

Thursday: "WWF Smackdown!"

Friday: "Freedom," "Level 9."

Times staff writer Elizabeth Jensen in New York contributed to this story.

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