USA rethinks sked

'War,' 'Manhattan' dropped as sr. VP Eick axed

The USA Network has canceled its highly touted offbeat sitcoms “The War Next Door” and “Manhattan, AZ” after eight weeks on the air.

The poor Nielsen performance of the two series at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively, on Sunday night has led to USA’s removal of David Eick as senior VP of original-series development. Although USA declined to comment on Eick’s dismissal, sources say the network has chosen TV writer and exec Jim Miller, who has worked on such series as “D.C.” and “Brimstone,” as Eick’s replacement. Eick will become a producer of TV series for Studios USA.

“War” averaged an unacceptably low 1.1 rating in cable homes for seven original episodes and “Manhattan, AZ” managed only a 0.9 for seven originals. The last cablecast of the two was Sept. 24, and a spokesman for USA says the network has no immediate plans to run the five unaired episodes.

“War” is produced by Viscardi and McRobb in association with Killian Prods.; David Richardson in association with Stu Segall Prods. filmed “Manhattan, AZ.”

One insider said USA will fill Sunday nights with theatrical movies for the time being while it accelerates the development of new series. The net hopes new shows will take up some of the slack that will inevitably follow the departure from USA of the most popular weekly series on all of basic cable for the last three years, the World Wrestling Federation’s two-hour slamfest “Raw Is War” Mondays at 9 p.m.

“Raw Is War” rumbled over to Viacom’s TNN on Monday. Viacom outbid USA for exclusive cable rights to the WWF’s various weekly wrestling series.

Wrestling with dilemma

USA’s primetime ratings, which regularly propel the network to the head of the basic-cable class, are almost certain to drop out of first place sans wrestling.

For its primetime Nielsen sustenance, the network will have to rely on the weeknight stripping of “Nash Bridges” at 8 p.m., lots of recent theatrical movies, original movies that crop up once or twice a month and a batch of reality specials that appear weekly.

USA is also counting on the three series hours now in production. Two of them run in primetime on Wednesday: the tongue-in-cheek action hour “Cover Me,” about a family of undercover FBI operatives, and the female bounty hunter adventure “The Huntress.” Both are doing only OK in the Nielsens: “Cover Me” averaged a 1.4 rating in cable homes for its first seven original episodes Wednesday at 9, and “Huntress” earned a 1.5 rating over the same seven weeks of originals.

The third series, “La Femme Nikita,” on Sunday at 10 p.m., just got its fifth-season pickup four months after USA and Warner Bros. had said they were not going to renew it. USA was not about to let a pre-sold commodity like “Nikita” vanish from the network along with the WWF’s Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock.

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