Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Short Timers

By Devin D. O'Leary

NOVEMBER 9, 1998:  Barely a month into the new TV season and already the schedule is starting to look like the battlefield at Antietam. With midseason replacements hovering on the horizon and critical ad dollars in the balance, television execs are becoming more unforgiving when it comes to axing new shows. It used to be networks would keep a show for a while, tinker with it, wait for it to catch on. Those salad days are over. The tide turned last season when, after weeks of on-air promotions, FOX yanked Scott Baio's flashback sitcom "Rewind" from its schedule ... a week before it was set to premiere!

FOX was also the first network to lower the boom this season by pulling the hopeless "Holding the Baby" from its Sunday night line-up in early October. FOX's Sunday sched was also the cause of some trouble on Tuesday. Having yanked the promising "King of the Hill" from its cushy Sunday night post-"Simpsons" spot and deposited it unceremoniously on Tuesday nights, FOX watched "King" lose precisely half its audience from last season. Ouch. The fact that it was teamed with the grating blue-collar sitcom "Costello" didn't help matters. "Costello" got the boot two weeks ago, and "King" has been doubling up to fill the gap. Fox also pulled their Friday night sitcoms "Getting Personal" (which debuted last season) and "Living in Captivity" because they proved to be poor lead-ins to the somber supernatural drama "Millennium." "Living" is on hiatus and could return later in the season, but "Getting Personal's" Jon Cryer is out looking for a new job. The sitcoms have been replaced with the supernatural cop show "Brimstone," a much better companion for "Millennium."

The losses aren't quite as bad on the WB network, but with fewer hours on the air, the holes are even more obvious. WB showed "Mercy Point" no mercy by bouncing it from the sched after only two airings. Frankly, this "ER in space" show had some cult potential, but was a lousy follow-up to teenybopper sitcoms "Moesha" and "Clueless." The stillborn sci-fi show will soon be replaced by "America's Greatest Pets" (oh, the ignominy!). The network has also pulled its much-derided White House sitcom "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer." Protests from the NAACP and other organizations weren't enough to generate interest in the randy civil war comedy. WB hopes to use up the rest of "Pfeiffer's" 13 episodes later in the season, perhaps in a later timeslot.

CBS waved bye-bye to "The Brian Benben Show" after a month. It has already been replaced with the new Ted Danson sitcom "Becker" (Danson's second chance to bomb on the network). NBC, meanwhile, has pulled their Bo Derek drama "Wind on Water" after only two airings. No surprise there. ABC is the sole network yet to suffer a loss. It's a three-way race, though, between "Vengeance Unlimited" (a way-too-grim crime series), "The Secret Lives of Men" (a laughless sitcom) and "Fantasy Island" (a ratings disappointment which isn't being helped one iota by its crappy lead-in "America's Funniest Videos"). Any bets?


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