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CBS Plans to Move ‘Cosby’ to New Night

TIMES STAFF WRITER

CBS will shift “Cosby” from Monday to Wednesday nights in the fall, as the network seeks to build its Monday lineup around the comedies “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “King of Queens.”

Bill Cosby’s much-heralded return to television in 1996, following his dominating run through the 1980s on NBC, has proven to be a sturdy but never more than adequate ratings draw. As a result, CBS’ decision to schedule the show at 8 p.m. Wednesdays--opposite such youth-oriented series as ABC’s “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” and the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek"--reflects the network’s desire to try capturing a younger audience Monday nights.

CBS, which officially announces its revised prime-time lineup today, was keeping final scheduling plans close to the vest. The network will add a half-dozen new series to its roster, renew more than a dozen existing shows, and cancel the drama “L.A. Doctors” as well as more obvious ratings laggards such as “Payne,” “Maggie Winters” and “The Magnificent Seven.”

With “King of Queens” sliding to 8 p.m., CBS is expected to roll out a new series between that show and “Raymond.” The network’s new comedies are “Ladies Man,” starring Alfred Molina as a man surrounded by women; “Work With Me,” featuring Nancy Travis and Kevin Pollack as married lawyers; and “Love or Money,” a sitcom about a wealthy woman dating her building super.

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Travis is getting another stab at CBS’ lineup, having previously appeared in the 1996 comedy “Almost Perfect,” which the network canceled.

“Ladies Man” features Sharon Lawrence--fresh off her run on “NYPD Blue"--as Molina’s wife. Another alumna of that series, Amy Brenneman, will star in CBS’ “Judging Amy,” a drama about a single mom who moves in with her mother that could go up against “Blue” if CBS makes good on plans to shift its Tuesday movie to Wednesday nights. Series veterans Betty White and Tyne Daly, respectively, will play the grandmothers in those two shows.

The other new dramas are the sci-fi concept “Now and Again,” from the creator of “Moonlighting,” about a dead man brought back to life by the government in a new body; and “Family Law,” another show about lawyers, this time with Kathleen Quinlan as a woman who must start over after divorcing her husband and legal partner.

CBS will finish the current TV season as the most-watched network, aided in part by its acquisition of NFL football last year. The network agreed to pay $4 billion for those broadcast rights, hoping the games would serve as a promotional vehicle to attract male viewers to its prime-time lineup. Men have proven an especially elusive group for CBS, given the network’s older, more female audience profile.

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The results of that strategy have been mixed. While CBS made some competitive strides due to ratings declines by competitors, the network remains fourth in terms of viewership among adults under 50, the principal currency used in negotiating advertising rates. The demographic disparity is particularly significant from a bottom-line standpoint, as evidenced by the roughly $1.25 billion in preseason ad sales CBS booked a year ago, about $900 million less than prime-time leader NBC. This week’s scheduling announcements, with Fox still to come, set off those negotiations for the coming season.

CBS had previously announced plans to bring back more than a dozen of its current series, including “Touched by an Angel,” “Becker,” “JAG,” “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (hosted by Cosby), “Nash Bridges,” “48 Hours,” “Martial Law,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Chicago Hope” and both editions of “60 Minutes.” “Candid Camera” which currently airs Fridays, has been renewed as well but will likely be held as a backup, with the network to try pairing one of its new comedies with “Kids Say.”

The network is also planning a new drama from producer Steven Bochco, though that series--set in an inner-city hospital populated by what will primarily be an African American cast--won’t be available until January.


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