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Pieces of ABC puzzle falling into place

NEW YORK — Now that NBC and the WB Network have unveiled their fall schedules, speculation over possible ABC moves is starting to heat up.

ABC won’t announce its new lineup until Monday, which means nothing will be firmed up before this weekend. But an early blueprint (which may be nothing but a red herring) is already making the rounds in Hollywood and New York. A similar NBC schedule emerged last Wednesday, only to wind up showing only vague similarities to the final plan.

That said, sources speculate that the Universal drama “Timecop,” which is based on the feature film, could start Monday nights, leading into “Monday Night Football.”

On Tuesdays, midseason comedy “Soul Man” is a contender for the 8 p.m. slot. While the sitcom performed well, it only aired three times, making it a somewhat risky gamble to start the night.

Vying for the Tuesday hammock slots are “Over the Top,” a Columbia TriStar sitcom starring Tim Curry and produced by Robert Morton, and “Dharma & Greg,” a comedy from 20th Century Fox that screened very well. “Home Improvement” will probably stay at 9 p.m. and “NYPD Blue” at 10 p.m.

The potential Wednesday night scenario includes four returning sitcoms, some running in different timeslots. The night might be led off by “Drew Carey,” followed by “Grace Under Fire,” which has struggled in the 8 p.m. slot. At 9 p.m., “Spin City” could move from Tuesdays, followed by “Ellen” and “Primetime Live.”

Also receiving buzz for a Tuesday or Wednesday slot is “The Burns Brother Project,” which has a six-episode commitment from ABC.

The Thursday blueprint includes “High Incident” returning at 8 p.m., followed by a new Brillstein-Grey FBI drama, “C-16,” and “Turning Point.”

Several insiders questioned the wisdom or veracity of the Thursday plan, given that “High Incident” and “Turning Point” have both been rumored on very shaky ground.

On the other hand, launching many new shows on Thursday could prove futile against NBC’s comedy powerhouse, and it’s probably more important for ABC to focus on other nights.

On Friday nights, ABC is expected to stick to its TGIF plan, with “Sabrina: The Teenage Witch” possibly moving to 8 p.m. to lead off the night. New shows that might be added to the Friday teen lineup are: “Teen Angel” and “The Genie Show.” “Boy Meets World” is also expected to return, as is “20/20” at 10 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday are still up in the air, with some serious changes planned. Saturday, where ABC has had serious trouble this year, could start with Warner Bros.’ new drama “The Doyles,” about an Irish Catholic electrician and his four daughters.

Also vying for the 8 p.m. slot is “Nothing Sacred,” a drama from 20th Century Fox about a priest. Sources say a movie will probably follow from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

On Sunday, a Disney movie will air from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., and “The Doyles,” David Kelley’s “The Practice” and “Nothing Sacred” are contenders for the 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. slots.

Because ABC has so many slots to fill, the pieces of the puzzle could shift dramatically by Monday.

Several hot scenarios for Fox are also emerging. Fox doesn’t announce until Tuesday, but already sources are buzzing that the David Kelley drama “Ally McBeal” could follow “Melrose Place” Mondays at 9 p.m., while 20th Century Fox’s “The Visitor” will likely lead into “Millennium” Fridays at 8 p.m.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays probably will remain largely as they are, while Thursday is wide open and Saturday could be tweaked, with “New York Undercover” possibly moving from Thursdays.

New comedy contenders include Columbia’ s “Ask Harriet,” 20th’s “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” and “Venus on the Hard Drive,” and Warner Bros.’ “Rewind,” although the network has little room for new comedies. In addition to “Ally McBeal” and “Visitor,” “413 Hope Street” is a potential new drama.

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