NBC pulls plug on 'Titans'

NBC has pulled the plug on Aaron Spelling’s struggling sudser “Titans” and is close to doing the same with “The Michael Richards Show.”

Peacock execs informed Spelling Tuesday that the network would not be picking up the back nine on “Titans,” effectively killing the show. Four remaining segs of the Spelling/NBC Studios-produced skein are expected to be burnt off over the next few weeks.

NBC Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier was a vocal supporter of reviving the sudser genre with “Titans,” fighting for the show even when some NBC development execs were hesitant.

Ancier had previously worked with Spelling to revive the family drama genre with “7th Heaven” at the WB, and had hoped to strike gold again with “Titans.”

There’s no word yet on an official replacement, though midseason drama “This Life” (working title) is considered a fave to take over the 8 p.m. slot next month.

Move to kill “Titans” came just one day after the show bowed to lackluster ratings in its new 8 p.m. Monday timeslot. The show scored a 2.8 rating/7 share among adults 18-49, with a total tune-in of 6.6 millions — the same numbers NBC had been averaging earlier this fall with the combo of “Daddio” and the now-canceled “Tucker.”

For the most of the fall, “Titans” aired at 8 p.m. Wednesday, where it averaged a 3.3/9 with adults 18-49 and 8 million viewers — down 13% in the key demo from NBC’s year-ago performance.

The family storyline behind “Titans” probably owed more to Spelling’s “Dynasty” than the producer‘s more recent “90210.” Casper Van Dien starred as Chandler Williams, a 26-year-old fighter pilot who returns to his family’s home in Beverly Hills only to find his divorced parents locked in a heated battle.

Yasmine Bleeth played the family patriarch’s young bride, a woman with whom Chandler had previously enjoyed a steamy affair. Victoria Principal and Jack Wagner also starred in the skein, which was produced by Spelling, E. Duke Vincent and Charles Pratt.

“Titans” was a risky project from the start for NBC, considering that traditional over-the-top primetime sudsers like “Dynasty,” “Knot’s Landing” and “Dallas” mostly disappeared after the Reagan administration.

But at their height, nighttime soap operas ruled the TV roost– “Dallas,” for example, was the first- or second-rated show of the season for five consecutive years in the early 1980s.

The Peacock more or less missed the soap derby that decade, though not for lack of trying (“Flamingo Road”). Younger-skewing series like Spelling’s “Beverly Hills, 90210″ and “Melrose Place” took up the soap legacy in the 1990s.

But with “Melrose” and “90210″ gone, NBC sensed a vacuum and hoped to revisit the genre this season.

As for “Richards,” NBC brass won’t make any official decisions on the sitcom until seeing how last night’s seg performed in the ratings. However, unless the skein makes a miraculous Nielsen comeback, the network will cancel “Richards” by week’s end, NBC insiders said.

A big factor in the network’s decision to dump “Richards” now is the show’s unusually high cost. Insiders peg its weekly license fee at nearly $1.2 million, virtually unheard of for a frosh comedy.

“Richards,” the first series to feature a “Seinfeld” alum since the latter skein ended in 1998, was one of the worst-reviewed new shows of the fall. The series had a rocky road to air: NBC threw out the show’s original pilot, brought in several new cast members and then made substantial changes to a revised pilot. Spike Feresten, one of the show’s four creators and exec producers, ankled the skein last month (Daily Variety, Nov. 9.)

In the series, Richards plays a bumbling private eye surrounded by an even more clueless bunch of co-workers. Other cast members include Tim Meadows and William Devane.

“SNL” alum Meadows has an overall deal with NBC and could surface in another Peacock project as soon as next fall.

“Richards” has averaged just a 4.1 rating and 11 share among adults 18 to 49 after five airings Tuesdays at 8 p.m., down 18 percent from the time period (“Just Shoot Me”) last year. The sitcom has been pulling down 9.2 million viewers.

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