Frosh shows left in limbo pre-sweeps

'Philly,' 'Baines,' other shows fall in-between ratings

HOLLYWOOD — Somewhere between the delight of October’s pickups and the despair of its pinkslips lie more than a few new shows that remain in limbo heading into sweeps.

At this point of the season, most new programs on the broadcast nets have made their ratings mark: If they’ve performed well (NBC’s “Scrubs,” CBS’ “The Guardian,” ABC’s “According to Jim”), they’ve been invited for an extended stay, but if they’ve tanked from the start (CBS’ “Danny”), they’ve already been put out of their misery.

In-between are shows like Steven Bochco’s ABC drama “Philly” and John Wells’ CBS meller “Citizen Baines” that have disappointed but may stay around longer than warranted simply because of their pedigree.

Here’s a look at some of the other “limbo” series:

  • “The Amazing Race” (CBS): Cross-country traveling could be troublesome these days, but this reality series deserves a second edition.

    It has improved the time period of a year ago (with movies) by 19% in adults 25-54 and by 26% in adults 18-49 and is ideal counter-programming to NBC’s “The West Wing.”

  • “The Education of Max Bickford” (CBS): Richard Dreyfuss starrer has failed to keep pace with last season’s fading “Touched by an Angel,” down 24% in adults 25-54 and 27% in adults 18-49. It could last the season, though, as the Eye doesn’t have much on the midseason burner and may be patient with this star vehicle.

  • “The Ellen Show” (CBS): Ellen DeGeneres’ small-town laffer hasn’t performed that well — down by 25% in adults 25-54 vs. last season’s “The Fugitive” — but isn’t embarrassing itself in a tough Friday slot that nobody is dominating.

    Net likely hopes that DeGeneres’ turn as host of the Emmys (Nov. 4) and a switch to a later 8:30 timeslot can boost the numbers. If not, it won’t be around much longer.

  • “Inside Schwartz” (NBC): It’s always tough to gauge genuine viewer interest in the laffers that follow the Peacock’s big Thursday hits, as the comedies to bow there the prior two seasons (“Stark Raving Mad” and “The Weber Show”) have produced big ratings but never made it to a second season.

    “Schwartz” appears headed for the same fate, as its 67% retention of the “Friends” aud puts it behind last season’s 76% hold for “Weber.” Net has pulled it from the November sked, but may give it a shot in a lower-profile Tuesday slot.

  • “Pasadena” (Fox): This soap has struggled in the early going (down 32% in 18-49 vs. “Freakylinks” a year ago) but has been lost amid net’s uneven fall rollout (necessitated by baseball playoffs).

    Fox is behind the show and believes it’s important to add some female-skewing series to its testosterone-tilting fare. Look for the net to stick with it longer than some might think.

  • “Thieves” (ABC): Airing Fridays at 9 opposite “Pasadena,” this drama started out well but has settled into mediocre ratings levels the past few weeks. Its four-week average puts it slightly below what the net did in the hour with comedies last season.

    This is another example of a net being supportive of a show that might otherwise be in serious trouble because of its downward ratings trajectory. It may stay around a while, especially if ABC can find a stronger lead-in for it.

  • “UC: Undercover” (NBC): The forgotten lead-out to Sunday’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” this dark crime drama has been a decent performer. Its ratings are about on par with what the net’s inconsistent movies did in the same hour a year ago.

    One more positive: It’s the youngest-skewing drama on a net that has aged up in recent years with its multitudes of “Law & Order” and “Dateline.”

The fate of each of these shows should be determined by the holidays. And by then, just about any alternative to “limbo” will seem like a gift.

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