Mark Harris
November 30, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

It’s not often that a third-place network cancels a popular series, but ABC executives are apparently dangling the ax over the popular high-school sitcom Head of the Class. The five-year-old show ranks a very respectable 21st in the Nielsens, but ABC is said to blame it for pulling down the ratings of Roseanne, which follows it at 9 p.m. and has slipped from first to fifth place this season. Network programmers are reportedly eager to replace Class with another school sitcom, Spiral Bound, from Roseanne‘s powerful producers, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner. ”Our show is in the top 25,” says Class executive producer Richard Eustis, ”so why should we roll over and play dead just because we’re not saving the network? We’re still a strong show.” Strong, maybe — but happy? This season, Head of the Class was retooled to showcase Scottish comedian Billy Connolly (in foreground below, with company), who replaced series original Howard Hesseman. His prominence has some old hands griping about their reduced roles. ”They’re such pros that they don’t let it affect their work,” Eustis insists. ”They all know that if this show has renewed life, it’s going to be because of Billy. If you have fewer lines but Billy’s up there saving your job, what do you care?”

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