ABC : No 20/20, less Millionaire


ABC executives unveiled their fall lineup Tuesday to advertisers, a lineup that includes five new series, two weekly installments of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and a bit of controversy.

The controversy surrounds Barbara Walters and her long-running ABC News series 20/20. ABC is starting the season with the newsmagazine on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT, taking it off the schedule for a month in November during the sweep and returning it to its regular Friday 10 p.m. slot in December. The move has been viewed as a strike against 20/20 by critics and Walters has voiced her displeasure.

ABC is displacing 20/20 and moving second-year drama Once and Again, which is produced by co-owned Touchstone TV, into its Friday night slot for at least the first several months of the season. NYPD Blue will join ABC's schedule in November on a new night for the show and displace 20/20 from that time slot.

ABC TV President Alex Wallau said Walters was "clearly disappointed" and that "she would have liked to have stayed in the time slot she has been in." "She had been initially more disappointed because she thought this represented some kind of statement and it's been interpreted as some sort of statement about ABC News." Wallau said the move was not meant as anything against ABC News, rather as a win-win for both ABC News and Once and Again. "She now sees that," Wallau added. "And she has been the ultimate class person in handling this."

ABC Entertainment TV Group Co-chairman Stu Bloomberg said, "We are really grateful that Barbara Walters and (ABC News President) David Westin have allowed us to use that time period for a while in the fall," said ABC Entertainment Co-Chairman Stu Bloomberg. "Clearly we love Once and Again and it would have been very difficult to have a year without those two families and the writing of Marshall (Herskovitz) and Ed (Zwick)."

Come December, Once and Again will likely move to 9 p.m. on Fridays and new drama Thieves will also move back an hour, filling the 8 p.m. time slot that will be vacated after reality series The Mole's second 13-episode run is over. The Mole is debuting at 8 p.m. in Sept. on Friday nights.

The new lineup will also feature a regular edition of Millionaire on Mondays and a special, celebrity and stunt version of the game show on Thursdays. Tuesday night will now feature Dharma & Greg at 8 p.m., What About Joan at 8:30 p.m., new comedy Bob Patterson at 9 p.m. and Spin City at 9:30 p.m. Steven Bocho's new drama Philly will air at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays. Wednesday night will start with My Wife and Kids, new comedy The Dad at 8:30 p.m., The Drew Carey Show at 9 p.m. and The Job at 9:30 p.m. Thursday's will remain in tact, as will Saturdays. Sunday ABC will launch new drama Alias at 9 p.m.-between The Wonderful World of Disney and The Practice.

ABC programmers also announced that reality series The Runner will now launch midseason and that Whose Line Is It Anyway? star Wayne Brady will get his own variety show this summer. Touchstone drama The Court with Sally Field has also been pushed to midseason. And last but not least, ABC has ordered a number of undersea specials coined Ocean Challenge from Oscar winner James Cameron and Jean-Michel Cousteau. - Joe Schlosser