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For nets, its gut-check time

4/30/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Network executives are wearing out their Guccis traipsing from studio to studio this month, making their best guesses on their prime time lineups for fall.

It's crunch time: By the end of this week, more than half of the 110 drama or comedy pilots will have been viewed by top network brass.

ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, UPN and The WB are looking, all told, at 59 comedy pilots, 51 dramas and more than a dozen reality show pilots. Given that whatever they choose, 80% will fail, at least they can be applauded for helping the economy. The pilot price tag exceeds $200 million.

What will viewers and advertisers get for that kind of dough? We'll learn soon. Between now and May 15-19, each of the networks will have presented advertisers with their planned schedules for the 2000-2001 season, and Madison Avenue will bet, with billions of dollars, on who has the hits.

Still, just days away from those final schedules, a handful of serious question marks looms: Can NBC win back its Friends for another season? Can FOX bring back The X-Files with some semblance of the original cast? Will UPN grab Fox's Family Guy and ABC's The Hughleys? And does any competing network have a final answer for ABC and Regis Philbin?

Here is a quick guide to the six major broadcast networks'development slates and a handicap chart on what will likely go down at the upfronts later this month.

ABC

What's in development

6 dramas, 5 comedies and 3 alternative series including Mastermind. That's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire's spin-off that could be launched this summer.

NY upfront: May 16, Radio City

Done deal

No firm commitments for new shows.

Looking good

Sitcom Lost and Found with Geena Davis; sketch show with Who's Line Is It Anyway's Wayne Brady; a cop comedy with Dennis Leary; dramas Elizabeth Street and Gideon's Crossing

They're back

NYPD Blue, Drew Carey, Once and Again, The Practice, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and, no doubt, Dharma & Greg. Also back is Spin City, without Michael J. FOX. A problem?

Iffy

Making the Band, The Hughleys, Norm, Two Guys, Sports Night

RIP

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; Boy Meets World; Wonderland; Wasteland; It's Like.You Know

Black Hole

TGIF is dead. Will Wonderful World of Disney move there from Sunday? Comedies and Brady sketch show also said to be possibles.

Analysis

Have we mentioned Millionaire? How many times will it air? Possibly four a week, but ABC execs aren't saying. Net wants to build off its lead on more nights. It could be back-to-back season victories for Disney gang.

CBS

What's in Development

10 dramas, 11 comedies and 1 game show ($64,000 Question).

NY upfront: May 17, Carnegie Hall

Done deal

No firm commitments for new shows.

Looking good

Sitcom Bette from Columbia TriStar, with Bette Midler; remake of Fugitive from Warner Bros.; and American Family from Gregory Nava

They're back

Monday night comedies, outside of Ladies Man, will remain intact; ditto for Sunday night with Touched By An Angel, 60 Minutes and movie. Family Law and Judging Amy set for second seasons.

Iffy

City of Angels, Now & Again, Ladies Man, Chicago Hope, Kids Say the Darndest Things, Martial Law and Falcone

RIP

Cosby, Work With Me

Black Hole

Help needed for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Analysis

Lots on the bubble. Look for seven or eight time-period changes in the fall and some unexpected reality series changes, depending on success of Big Brother and Survivor this summer

Fox

What's in development

6 shows they call "alternative," 11 dramas and 9 comedies

NY upfront: May 18, Beacon Theater

Done deal

David E. Kelley's Teachers

Looking good

Darren Star's The Street; Barry Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson's The Tick; comedy Don't Ask, from 3rd Rock creators Bonnie and Terry Turner; and Chris Carter's Lone Gunmen

They're back

Midseason comedy Titus; Malcolm in the Middle; Ally McBeal; The Simpsons; That'70s Show; King of the Hill; Futurama; Cops; America's Most Wanted

Iffy

Time of Your Life, Police Videos, Greed, softer reality stuff. Possibly letting Family Guy go to UPN

RIP

Beverly Hills 90210, Party of Five, Get Real and (so they say) exploitative reality

Black hole

More nights to fill than any other network. Fall failures left gaping holes on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Plan is to build from stronger Sunday and Monday success.

Analysis

Coming off exec shuffle and bad year for new shows. Lots of sizzle lost with possible exit of X-Files and end of Party of Five and Beverly Hills 90210. But solid development with names like Kelley, the Turners and Carter.

NBC

17 comedies, 10 dramas, maybe a few game shows. Network funded presentations,'not pilots, saved bucks.

NY upfront: May 15, Lincoln Center

Done deal

Steven Spielberg's military drama Semper Fi; Dick Wolf's Deadline, starring Oliver Platt; Kristen Chenoweth comedy with Broadway star; and comedy with Seinfeld goofball Michael Richards

Looking good

Tucker and another comedy from NBC Studios; comedy with Seinfeld alum Wayne Knight from Carsey-Werner

They're back

ER, Law & Order, Will & Grace, Third Rock From the Sun, Providence, Just Shoot Me and, of course, Friends, if renewal negotiations go well

Iffy

Twenty-One, Stark Raving Mad, Daddio, Profiler, The Pretender, The Others, Jesse

RIP

Freaks and Geeks; Suddenly Susan; Veronica's Closet; God, The Devil and Bob; Battery Park; Cold Feet

Black hole

Monday night is a tough platform for comedies; Sundays are a struggle and Saturdays are up in the air, at least until the new WWF football league, the XFL, bows in midseason.

Analysis

Last year added seven new shows (five were dramas). Look for seven to eight new shows this fall (possibly 5 comedies). NBC execs didn't expect Millionaire; now, they're aiming to shoot it down.

UPN

What's in development

One reality series (The Big House), 9 comedies (4 for midseason) and 5 dramas

NY upfront: May 18, Madison Square Garden Theater

Done deal

Howard Stern's animated Doomsday has been picked up for mid-year.

Looking good

Pair of ethnic comedies: Girlfriends from Kelsey Grammer and Who's Your Daddy (formerly Him and Her); sketch comedy show Out of Bounds (formerly Off the Hook); and dramas Level 9 and Resistance

They're back

WWF Smackdown, The Parkers, Star Trek: Voyager

Iffy

The Beat, Malcolm and Eddie and Grown Ups

RIP

The Strip, Shasta McNasty, Secret Agent Man, I Dare You and Dilbert

Black hole

Tuesdays. Execs said to be mulling a move of the Friday night movie lineup to Tuesday as fix. Another scenario has Monday's ethnic-skewing lineup bleeding into Tuesday with more urban comedies.

Analysis

UPN has some momentum, but Viacom-CBS merger adds a question mark. Network hopes Thursday's WWF Smackdown success will carry over into new Friday night lineup.

The WB

9 dramas, 8 comedies and 2 reality series. Has tight deal with Family Friendly Programs Initiative backed by Madison Ave. advertisers.

NY upfront: May 16, Sheraton NY Hotel & Towers

Done deal

Nikki Cox (Unhappily Ever After) comedy with Drew Carey producer Bruce Helford; there's a new Sabrina spin-off, after nabbing Sabrina, The Teenage Witch from ABC; option for Claymation series The PJ's

Looking good

Sketch comedy series Hype; drama Gross Pointe from Darren Star; two family friendly programs, Gilmore Girls and Finally Home with Melissa Gilbert

They're back

7th Heaven, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dawson's Creek, Charmed, The Steve Harvey Show, The Jamie Foxx Show

Iffy

Roswell, Felicity, Jack and Jill are iffy; Movie Stars and For Your Love are very iffy.

RIP

D.C., Brutally Normal, Zoe, Safe Harbor, Mission Hill, 7th Heaven: Beginnings

Black hole

Sundays and Mondays after 7th Heaven. Aaron Spelling's Safe Harbor was last show to fail to capitalize on Heaven lead in.

Analysis

Made some late-season changes with Felicity and Roswell that helped strengthen both. But WB had tough season with loss of WGN Superstation and early season misses.

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