Networks claim high marks on fall report card
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From Correspondent Paul Vercammen
HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- Tales of this fall's short-lived shows abound -- from "Brian Benben" to "Costello," many shows have already failed to make the TV cut. In fact, there have been no break-out hits. Yet, many surprise shows are making the cut, and making the grade.
The teen-age witch comedy "Charmed," starring Alyssa Milano and former "90210" bad girl Shannen Doherty, is helping ratings rise for the WB network. "Overall, the WB's numbers are way up over last year," says TV Guide's Mark Schwed, who gives the network an "A" for the season's start because, he says, "It's one of the only networks that's actually seeing a real gain in viewers."
While the so-called mini-network's ratings still can't touch major network hits, the advertisers love the WB's young audience. "Charmed" averages almost 5 million viewers a week.
'Martial Law' highest rated new drama
The WB's new drama "Felicity" is also building a following, although CBS boasts the highest rated new drama, "Martial Law," which stars Sammo Hung Kam-Bo as Sammo Law, a martial arts master working as a San Francisco cop.
And CBS's new comedy "King of Queens" is generating some buzz as well. "I'll give us an A minus," says CBS entertainment president Les Moonves, "which I'll say is the highest grade of the four (major) networks. I think we've had a lot more good news than bad news."
Led by CBS, the other networks are closing the ratings gap on the traditional leader, NBC, this season. Why? Most critics point to the end of "Seinfeld"'s nine-year run. When NBC moved "Frasier" from Tuesdays to Thursdays to fill the gap, the ratings on both Tuesday and Thursday nights fell.
But the peacock network is getting some encouraging numbers from newcomers "Will and Grace," as well as "Jesse," which is benefitting from a still-coveted Thursday night time slot on NBC. Christina Applegate plays the title character in an ensemble cast.
"I am nothing without them, and they are nothing without me, and we work so well to hold each other up," she says. "If one piece falls off, the whole thing falls apart."
No cancellations yet on ABC
ABC is showing confidence in its new programming, from "Sports Night" to "The Secret Lives of Men." There have been no cancellations so far on ABC, where the strongest new offering is "The Hughleys." The sitcom about an African-American family in suburbia is the best-rated of the new ABC sitcoms.
"This show only needs for people to watch," says D.L. Hughley, the show's star and executive producer. "I like to say it is like this: Jerry Seinfeld's was a show about nothing. This is a show about something, and it's equally potent and powerful and funny."
So far, "That 70's Show" is earning the highest marks of any of Fox's newcomers, which is something to celebrate when so many other shows -- NBC's "Wind On Water," CBS's "Benben" and Fox's "Costello" have already been kicked out of class, and off TV.
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