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News Analysis

ABC Finds Discord in Shake-Up of Fall Schedule

'NYPD Blue,' '20/20' interests are unhappy over shift to Wednesday. Even rivals express puzzlement.


In the interim, ABC can sell ad buyers a sexy spy drama, "Alias," at 9 p.m. Sundays knowing "Millionaire" can expand to add a third edition on short notice--especially if declines that hour begin to take a toll on "The Practice" at 10 p.m.

Bader acknowledged "Alias" represents a gamble, but ABC's hope is the show will take root during September and October while the time-period incumbent, Fox's "The X-Files," is preempted by the major league baseball playoffs.

"The question is can we hook an audience in six weeks, [and] we think we can," Bader said.

Bochco also questioned the scheduling of "Once and Again," citing clear financial incentives (the show is produced by Disney and repeats on the Lifetime cable channel, of which Disney is a part owner) that appear to have spurred its renewal.

"'On the one hand, I applaud them for sticking with shows they believe in," he said. "[But] if ABC was an owner of 'NYPD Blue,' wherever they put us at least there would be a net under it."

Bochco was not the only TV heavyweight upset by ABC's announcement. At first saying the "20/20" time-period switch was disappointing but "not the end of the world," Walters then publicly used her daytime chat show, "The View," to imply she might leave the network. Walters subsequently became more conciliatory, noting that she remains contractually bound to "20/20" until December 2002 and ABC News beyond that.

As always, ABC will have two additional hours to fill once "Monday Night Football" ends in December. In the past, a mix of feature films and made-for-TV movies usually filled the breach, but ABC has said it will introduce two new programs in 2002--the unscripted "The Runner," which has been delayed by logistical problems, and the Supreme Court drama "The Court," starring Sally Field.

Yet even that game plan could be revised depending on how series perform in November, when ABC will have to reshuffle the deck--and decide which cards to keep--once football is over.

"It's Groundhog Day," Bader said of the dilemma. "It happens every year."

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