Dramas heat up Wednesday-night wars

Three-net battle ensues this fall

HOLLYWOOD — A family comedy duel, the next potential breakout reality series and a rare three-net drama battle at 10 highlight Wednesday’s wars on the networks this fall.

We’ll also learn on this night if there’s still more growth in NBC’s “The West Wing” following its boffo sophomore campaign. The White House drama, which soared in the ratings last season after capturing the best drama Emmy, helped the Peacock take control of the night, especially among viewers aged 35-plus.

Overall, Wednesday is a fairly stable night, with only five new programs on the six nets as well as three other shows that have shifted nights. Two nets — NBC and the WB — return their skeds intact.

Still, Wednesday isn’t as fiercely competitive as the nights that surround it, and NBC’s three-drama lineup should remain on top in both total viewers and adults 18-49 while ABC and CBS improve their standings.

Fox, without “Temptation Island” to boost its Hump-night averages, is perhaps the most vulnerable, trying an all-comedy lineup for the first time.

Night’s marquee matchup comes at 10, where longtime champ “Law & Order,” coming off one of its strongest seasons ever, butts heads with ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” which moves to the night after an eight-year run on Tuesdays. (“Blue” bows in November, with newsmag “20/20” warming up the slot for the season’s first seven weeks.)

Look for “Law” to lose 1 or 2 share points in adults 18-49 while skewing slightly older and more female than “Blue.” NBC should take the hour by about 5 shares instead of the 8 or 9 it did a year ago when ABC aired “Gideon’s Crossing” and “Once and Again” at 10.

Wild-card entry in the hour is CBS’ “Wolf Lake,” which gets a chance to establish itself opposite only one other drama (“Law”). Against the grizzled vets, this sexy and spooky skein could score with adults 18-34, especially if the Eye’s 9 p.m. reality series “Amazing Race” can live up to its buzz.

“Race” joins comedies on both ABC and Fox in looking to tackle “West Wing” in its most vulnerable demos (teens and adults 18-34). In fact, there’s a good chance that “West Wing” could finish fourth in people 12-34 for the hour while still winning in older demos and total viewers.

Night also pits ABC and Fox comedy blocks against each other from 8 to 10 — a departure from last year for both — while CBS has finally given up on trying to make Wednesday auds chuckle. NBC starts the night with second-year dramedy “Ed,” which should again challenge for the hour’s 18-49 and 25-54 lead.

The Alphabet’s block appears a bit shaky on the half-hours (rookie “According to Jim” at 8:30 and soph “The Job” at 9:30), but the flow makes sense, especially with “Job” leading into “Blue.”

This was ABC’s strongest night in adults 18-34 last season, and the net has especially high hopes for 8 o’clock anchor “My Wife and Kids,” which did very well in its Wednesday spring run last season. “Wife’s” primary competish comes from Fox’s rotating repeats of family comedies; they’ll steal audience from each other, but “Wife” should prevail.

Fox’s 9 o’clock laffers — “Titus” in its first anchor slot and newbie “Bernie Mac Show” — look iffy but could carve out a decent following among an underserved young-male aud.

As for CBS, “60 Minutes II” should do well at 8 — it seems better suited to lead off a night, al a the original — and “Race” and “Wolf” give the net a great chance to remain competitive overall. Anything “Wolf” does in demos would be gravy, considering that the net’s movies averaged a mere 7 share in adults 18-49 during the 10 o’clock hour last season.

It should also be a close battle among the weblets, with “Enterprise,” the latest “Star Trek” tale, taking over for “Voyager” at 8, where it will battle the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek.” There’s no reason “Enterprise” shouldn’t perform on par with “Voyager,” but the jury’s out on “Dawson’s,” whose characters move from high school to college.

This was UPN’s strongest non-“Smackdown” night a year ago and the WB’s best in its target adults 18-34 demo. Look for the Frog to again hop to it in younger viewers, but for UPN to move ahead in the 25-plus crowd and total viewers.

Official 2001-2002 Primetime Schedule

for Wednesday








My Wife and Kids

60 Minutes II


Best of Fox (Repeats)

Dawson’s Creek


According to Jim

Grounded for Life

Drew Carey Show

Amazing Race

The West Wing



Special Unit 2

The Job

The Bernie Mac Show

20/20 (NYPD Blue – Nov)

Wolf Lake

Law & Order







2001-2002 Projections

Overall Viewers:

Adults 18-49:

Adults 25-54:

Adults 18-34:



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