ABC hides pair; NBC stirs sked

'Vengeance,' 'Fantasy' benched as sweeps race heats up

ABC has yanked its Thursday drama “Vengeance Unlimited” off the air for the rest of the sweeps and is benching Saturday drama “Fantasy Island” for the last two weeks of November.

Separately, NBC any day now is expected to firm up some Tuesday and Wednesday scheduling moves for December. Sources say Carsey-Werner’s “3rd Rock From the Sun” could shift to a new timeslot for the fourth time in less than four years.

The Peacock is leaning toward moving “Dateline” to 9 p.m. Wednesday, with “3rd Rock” going at 8 p.m., followed by Paramount’s struggling Nathan Lane starrer “Encore! Encore!” Brillstein-Grey’s comedy “NewsRadio” would then migrate back to its old Tuesday 8:30 p.m. timeslot where “Encore!” was launched this season.

“Encore!” is off the air for the sweeps, and NBC is double-pumping “Just Shoot Me” Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. for most of the month, with “NewsRadio” heading into the 8:30 p.m. slot the last week of sweeps.

Wednesday negotiable

Par would have to grant permission for NBC to air “Encore!” on Wednesday because Par was guaranteed a Tuesday or Thursday timeslot for the first 13 episodes. NBC could simply keep the show off the air if Par doesn’t agree.

NBC is making the Wednesday moves because webheads feel a comedy block will lead the night off with younger demos, and “Dateline” could establish a toehold in the timeslot many execs anticipate CBS may launch its second installment of “60 Minutes.”

Meanwhile, sources say NBC will not exercise its option to drop “NewsRadio” after the first 13 episodes, but will keep it on for the full season. NBC and Brillstein-Grey may actually be negotiating yet another year for the comedy instead.

December return

Back at ABC, execs had already planned to preempt “Vengeance” for two weeks of the sweeps with movies, but now the show will be replaced by a special for the one remaining sweeps week it was scheduled to air, Nov. 19.

“Vengeance” will likely return to the schedule in early December, but the sweeps preemptions don’t bode well for the show’s future. Warner Bros. has not yet received a back-nine order, and so far, “Vengeance” is averaging a mere 2.4 rating and 7 share with young adults.

On Saturday night, ABC will air its regular schedule this week, but will take Columbia TriStar TV’s “Fantasy Island” and “Cupid” off the following week (Nov. 14), airing a half-hour of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and a movie instead. On Nov. 21, “Cupid” will return at 10 p.m., but a movie will air from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in place of “Videos” and “Fantasy.”

ABC has been unhappy with the direction of “Fantasy Island,” and Columbia has responded by replacing the show’s top writer/producers. But ABC also wants better guest stars and wants executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld more involved. “Fantasy Island” is averaging a 3.0/9 in young adults.

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