Lynette Rice
May 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Ratings Share?

Let’s hear it for the home team. Three of five new ABC fall series were made in-house, while NBC’s studios cranked out four of its six new shows. It’s a trend not lost on uberproducers Dick Wolf and John Wells, who accused NBC of saving its prime 10 p.m. slots for net-owned programs (such as the NBC-produced, CSI-esque Crossing Jordan, starring Jill Hennessy, which will air Mondays at 10 p.m.). Meanwhile, Wolf’s latest Law & Order spin-off was sent off to battle The X-Files on Sundays, and Wells’ Third Watch, which used to air at 10 p.m. on Mondays, will now air opposite Everybody Loves Raymond and Ally McBeal on Mondays at 9. (”These were decisions made to make the schedule stronger,” argues NBC West Coast president Scott Sassa. ”We never place a show in a preferred time slot solely because it’s an NBC show.”) But not every in-house show got an automatic leg up: The future of Disney-owned Once and Again was up in the air until the last minute. (It’ll return at 10 p.m. on Fridays.) ”They gave us no assurances,” said cocreator Marshall Herskovitz. ”We took a pretty bad hit seven or eight weeks ago in the 18-49 demographics that persisted three to four weeks, but we began to come back. The finale did as well as we ever had, so that was a good sign that there still was a lot of potential.”

The Never Missing ‘Link’

Looks like Regis Philbin will finally be getting some downtime: Weaning itself off the large, but demographically unappealing (read: old fogies), Nielsens generated by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, ABC is trimming the number of the game show’s weekly installments from four to two during the 2001-02 season. Just because ABC seems to have learned its lesson about relying too much on quiz shows, don’t assume NBC’s gotten the message: Next fall, the Peacock will not only double its number of Weakest Link airings from one to two but also plans to syndicate a non-prime-time Link as early as January 2002. ”It’s a great time to capitalize on the heat,” says Sassa. But will so many airings dilute the potency of the still-vulnerable prime-time Link? That was ABC’s worry and the reason it nixed syndicating Millionaire. Says TN media analyst Steve Sternberg: ”I can’t call it a mistake if it makes NBC a lot of money, but it’s nowhere near as strong as Millionaire. Weakest Link could even wear itself out before being syndicated.” Link has already lost 23 percent of its Monday viewers since its April 16 debut.) Still, Sassa’s convinced that the syndie shows won’t hurt the original — they will have fewer contestants, less banter, and will not feature host Anne Robinson. Now if they’d just get rid of that grating ”You are the weakest link. Good-bye” shtick.

And so on…

The (Under)Graduate, Part II: Jake Hoffman, son of Dustin, will appear in two episodes of Fox’s fall comedy Undeclared, from Freaks and Geeks producer Judd Apatow. Hoffman, 20, plays a fraternity pledge.

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