‘Boomtown’ (NBC) vs. ‘The Practice’ (ABC)

Sundays at 10 p.m.

The Practice,” one of ABC’s few winning timeslots last season despite a substantial year-to-year ratings falloff, will face a formidable opponent in NBC’s new crime drama “Boomtown,” which has generated some early buzz for its unconventional storytelling.

NBC has long struggled on Sunday nights but is now looking to build on the momentum of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” which did well in the 9 o’clock hour last season. In “Boomtown,” an ensemble drama that unravels as a crime is experienced from the individual perspectives of its characters, the Peacock also appears to be making a play for the “Sopranos” audience to tune over after that HBO drama ends at 10.

“On the surface it seems like a show you’ve seen before, but the execution of storytelling is astounding,” says NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf. “You need enough traditional elements in a show like this and then to be able to push the envelope a bit, and that’s what we’ve done.

“We like our chances, irregardless of whatever ‘The Practice’ does.”

ABC chief programmer Jeff Bader doesn’t see “Boomtown” as much of a threat to his net’s legal eagles. “It’s trying to have some buzz,” he says, “but there’s no doubt we’ll continue to win the timeslot.”

Bottom line: “The Practice” lost nearly one-third of its audience and a great deal of its water-cooler buzz in one season and now appears vulnerable opposite a well-done crime drama. “Boomtown” likely won’t beat “The Practice,” but it could move ahead in some male demos.

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