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NEWS & REVIEWS

Sitcom's sudden death

NBC yanks 'Just Shoot Me' after a poor showing against Fox's 'American Idol.'

April 24, 2003|Brian Lowry | Times Staff Writer

"Just Shoot Me," rest in peace.

The long-running NBC sitcom -- yanked from the network's schedule early in the season -- returned Tuesday for what was supposed to be a run through May, including an episode designed as a possible series finale that may have provided a degree of closure.

Yet after a dismal performance Tuesday against Fox's "American Idol," NBC immediately pulled the show, effectively canceling the series. The remaining episodes will now at best be burned off this summer.

Given that the series once drew high ratings as part of NBC's "Must-See TV" Thursday lineup -- last season averaging 14.4 million viewers following "Will & Grace" -- series creator Steve Levitan contends that the network mishandled the show, from its delayed premiere in the fall to what he claimed was insufficient promotion for its return against one of TV's most popular series. "Nobody even knew the show was back on," Levitan said. "We've had no chance this year."

Although Levitan said the network assured him the series would be uninterrupted through the season finale, a network spokeswoman said NBC needed to make a change in an effort to improve its performance during the latest ratings sweeps, which begin today.

Back-to-back episodes of "Just Shoot Me" averaged fewer than 5 million viewers Tuesday, based on Nielsen Media Research estimates, running fourth in its time period. "American Idol" drew more than 20 million during the same hour. In the short term, NBC will fill the void with comedy specials, including "NBC's Funniest Outtakes" and then "The Most Outrageous Game Show Moments," specials that had been set for Wednesdays and will be replaced there by "Dateline NBC."

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