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Let the (Scheduling) Games Begin

The Baltimore Evening Sun

We all know you can’t judge a show by its ratings. Some of the best are down at the bottom of the Nielsens and some of the worst rise to the top.

That said, there is still an undeniable intrigue to the ratings races the networks run every year.

So, if you follow this game at all, here are some of the fall’s crucial matchups:

Sunday: No one expects much change in the time slot dominated by CBS’ “60 Minutes.” The battle begins later.

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NBC is desperate to get back in the picture on this most-viewed night of the week and is counting on James Garner in “Man of the People” and Robert Guillaume in “Pacific Station” to get defectors tiring of CBS’ “Murder, She Wrote” and the home video hour on ABC. Fox’s ratings for the first week of its complete new schedule show that it will be a serious player throughout the night.

Monday: No schedule changes.

Tuesday: ABC is gambling that the kiddies will follow “Full House” from Fridays and that it and newcomer “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen will rejuvenate the top of its schedule, while “Homefront” will have a wider appeal than did “thirtysomething.”

NBC has a classy drama “I’ll Fly Away,” which should attract an older-family audience, leading into “In the Heat of the Night.”

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Wednesday: CBS has high hopes that the combination of Redd Foxx’s raunchiness and a bunch of cute kids will give “The Royal Family” a broad appeal. ABC is countering with similar plans for kids and their parents watching “Dinosaurs.”

ABC goes with a night of all comedies, splitting “Doogie Howser, M.D.” and “Anything But Love” with newcomers “Sibs” and “Good & Evil.”

Thursday: Everyone backs off from NBC’s strength except Fox, which puts one of its strongest comedies, Dabney Coleman in “Drexell’s Class,” after “The Simpsons.” Fox’s “Beverly Hills 90210" parlayed its hot-show spin of last season into near-phenom status; it should remain strong.

Friday: Despite the move of “Full House,” nobody’s challenging ABC’s kid-appeal success. CBS is going after adults with two new comedies, “Princesses” and “Brooklyn Bridge,” while NBC thinks it can inherit that audience an hour later with newcomer “Flesh ‘n’ Blood” and the returning “Dear John.”

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Saturday: NBC’s move of splitting up “The Golden Girls” and “Empty Nest” to protect two new comedies--"The Torklesons” and “Nurses"--should work because there’s so little competition: CBS’ movie and ABC’s two tiring comedies--'Who’s the Boss?” and “Growing Pains"--and “The Young Riders.” CBS hopes to attract the female audience with “P.S.I. Luv U.” ABC counters with a more traditional Saturday action show, “The Commish.”

It will be tough to make any judgments, what with all the stunting and special previews and CBS’ K mart game and such during the first few weeks and then the World Series and November sweeps. But here are some fearless predictions.

Winners: Fox on Sunday and Thursday, ABC on Tuesday, CBS on Wednesday, NBC on Saturday.

Losers: NBC on Sunday, CBS on Saturday, ABC on Thursday.

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The first cancellation will be CBS’ “P.S.I. Luv U,” while that network will make the first season’s move, “Brooklyn Bridge” and “Major Dad” swapping their Friday and Monday time slots.


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