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Fall time-slot face-offs

”Ugly Betty” goes up against ”30 Rock,” while ”Bionic Woman” competes with ”Gossip Girl,” amongst other shows rivaling for your affection

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Sunday
8:00-9:00PM
1. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC
2. The Simpsons, FOX
3. Sunday Night Football, NBC
4. Viva Laughlin, CBS

The Scoop The same players as last year, except for CBS, which makes the largest wager of the season by airing the new musical drama Viva Laughlin. “It’s a big swing,” admits Kelly Kahl, CBS’ programming head.

Bottom Line We all know Football rules here, but who will pull up the ratings rear? Our money is on Viva. And while we don’t wish first-cancellation honors on anyone — okay, that’s not totally true, we always wish first-cancellation honors on someone — we’re thinking Viva‘s singing will go silent by mid-October and hoping The Amazing Race will return to this time slot ASAP.

Monday
8:00-9:00PM
1. The Big Bang Theory, CBS
2. Chuck, NBC
3. Dancing With the Stars, ABC
4. Prison Break, FOX

The Scoop Forget Prison Break‘s elusive Lincoln Burrows; it’s the nerds who are on the loose! Two new shows highlighting the pocket-protector crowd will try to out-magoober the reigning champ, Dancing With the Stars.

Bottom Line ABC will hardly be shaking in its Danskins; it should waltz right into the winner’s circle. Though no one should feel like a complete loser unless those dweebs on Chuck and The Big Bang Theory cancel each other out. “Each network is doing what it does best,” says CBS’ Kelly Kahl. “There are four strong shows from four different genres. Everybody can actually win.”

Tuesday
8:00-9:00PM
1. Beauty and the Geek, THE CW
2. Bones, FOX
3. Cavemen, ABC
4. NCIS, CBS

The Scoop Age before Beauty and the Geek: Stalwart NCIS should outrank the competition in viewers while driving Cavemen back to the Dark Ages. Beauty should attract young viewers.

Bottom Line A surprise breakthrough by Bones could convince Fox that Tuesdays are fine without American Idol — paving the way (we think) for the singing show to embark on a new Wednesday and Thursday schedule. Demurs Fox exec VP of programming Preston Beckman, ”If this combo works, it will offer us some interesting options when Idol returns in January.”

Wednesday
9:00-10:00 PM
1. Bionic Woman, NBC
2. Criminal Minds, CBS
3. Gossip Girl, THE CW
4. Private Practice, ABC

The Scoop In what’s shaping up to be this season’s most competitive matchup, three new dramas with high name recognition — Private Practice, Bionic Woman, and Gossip Girl — do battle against the retooled Criminal Minds, led by Joe Mantegna.

Bottom Line Practice will make perfect (ratings) for ABC — at least initially. The real battle will be for second. ”These dramas have different appeals,” explains CBS’ Kelly Kahl. ”Practice and Gossip Girl will skew female, Bionic Woman appears to be more male, and Criminal Minds is more of a big-tent show.” Yeah, but without its popular ringmaster.

Thursday
8:00-9:00 PM
1. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, FOX
2. Survivor: China, CBS
3. 30 Rock, NBC
4. Ugly Betty, ABC

The Scoop CBS hasn’t pooped out on Jeff Probst just yet: The 15th evolution of Survivor should continue to cast away the competition in total viewers.

Bottom Line Thanks to its surprise success with Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, Fox may begin the season in virtual parity with the competition and even outrank critical faves on ABC and NBC. Says Fox’s Preston Beckman: ”I don’t know how much upside there is to Ugly Betty or Survivor, and with all due respect to 30 Rock, it hasn’t proven itself with ratings. We have a chance to be right there with everybody.”

Friday
9:00-10:00 PM
1. Friday Night Lights, NBC
2. Moonlight, CBS
3. Nashville, FOX
4. Women’s Murder Club, ABC

The Scoop Hey, something’s gotta air on this sleepy night of programming. Unfortunately, the arrival of three new shows — Moonlight, Nashville, and Women’s Murder Club — will make it tough for any of them to gain traction. Best of luck, Friday Night Lights; we’re pulling for you.

Bottom Line A toss-up. Fox’s decision to dabble in country music with Nashville is an intriguing one. ”We were pleasantly surprised by this,” says Fox’s Preston Beckman, who teamed the show with The Next Great American Band. But it’s Club that could end up being campy fun.

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