Networks replace hit shows for fall season

Sunday, May 19, 2002

NEW YORK -- The Fox network, stuck with sagging ratings and the end of two signature shows, will replace "Ally McBeal" this fall with another drama about lawyers produced by David E. Kelley.

With "The X-Files" also ending its run, Fox will turn Sundays into a comedy night -- part of an extensive overhaul that leaves only its Tuesday and Saturday night schedules intact.

Meanwhile, the UPN network released a new schedule Thursday with three new series, including a remake of "The Twilight Zone."

Fox has seen audience erosion second only to ABC this year, slipping behind NBC and CBS in its target demographic of young adults. "The X-Files" and "Ally McBeal" badly faded in the ratings, and no breakout hits emerged to replace them.

As a result, Fox is adding nine new programs -- four dramas and three comedies -- in the fall, and two non-scripted series and another drama in the winter.

"We had to make some aggressive moves in order to show some growth on our network next year," said Gail Berman, Fox entertainment president.

"Dark Angel," "Titus" and "That '80s Show" were canceled, with "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" set to return in midseason.

Kelley's new drama, "Girls Club," slips into the Monday time slot occupied by his old show, "Ally McBeal." It focuses on the professional and personal lives of three 27-year-old female lawyers, friends since law school, in San Francisco.

With its broadcast rivals airing dramas and "The Sopranos" returning on HBO, Fox opted for comedies in the Sunday 9 p.m. time slot vacated by "The X-Files." "Malcolm in the Middle" will start a half hour later than it does now and a new family comedy, "The Grubbs," will follow it.

UPN is sticking with themes for its five broadcast nights: comedies with largely black casts on Monday, science fiction programming on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, professional wrestling on Thursdays and movies on Fridays.

The latest remake of "The Twilight Zone," with Forest Whitaker as host, will air Wednesday nights. "Haunted," will follow "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on Tuesday.

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