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‘Duckman’ a USA dead man

In a move to shore up its action-adventure series identity and move away from half-hour sitcoms, the USA Network has canceled four low-rated primetime comedies, including 4-year-old critical favorite “Duckman.”

Besides “Duckman,” the shows include “Claude’s Crib,” “Lost on Earth” and “Weird Science.” However, “Duckman” — produced by Reno-Osborn Prods. in association with Paramount Domestic TV and Klasky-Csupo — could remain in production and get picked up by the United Paramount Network.

“Duckman” has produced 70 originals to date, and USA will continue to roll out firstrun product through August. Since May, however, the network has been airing the show in the death slot of midnight Saturdays. The show, with voices including Jason Alexander, never has been a huge ratings-grabber.

Jeff Reno, who executive produces “Duckman” along with Ron Osborn, said Wednesday the show’s future remains in flux but that he was hopeful of a UPN deal.

“It’s just too bad that we’ve been putting out some great original episodes, and they’ve been buried at midnight on Saturdays,” Reno said.

However, Paramount would like to keep “Duckman” in production beyond the 70 episodes. One more season would give the studio nearly 100 segs for the syndie market.

USA Networks entertainment prexy Rod Perth, who long has been one of “Duckman’s” biggest boosters, expressed regret at having to cancel it. “It’s been a great show for USA,” he said, “but we need to take our programming in a different direction.”

That direction is toward more action hours such as the Sunday night “La Femme Nikita,” though Perth declined Wednesday to name any new names.

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