Fall sweeps faces steep learning curve

Baseball is the talk of the early ratings race

HOLLYWOOD — CBS has the most productive rookie class, but many of its vets are sagging.

ABC still can’t make a hit drama, but its new comedies are performing very well.

NBC’s “Lyon’s Den” and “Coupling” have disappointed, but don’t count out “Miss Match” and “Whoopi” just yet.

And baseball’s boffo ratings and the return of summer hit “The OC” has Fox looking good, but then the second “Joe Millionaire” and “Skin” stumbled out of the gate.

It’s been a wacky, unpredictable start to the season, with the assessment of each net’s early performance seemingly changing by the day.

Here’s a look at how they stack up:

Fox

Net will enter November on top in the key demo of adults 18-49 but the seasonal crown might not come so easily if Monday’s “Joe Millionaire” and “Skin” can’t improve on their fourth-place debuts.

On the other hand, “The OC” should be a nice addition to Wednesdays, getting an additional bump come January when “American Idol” becomes its lead-in, and a 15-hour weekly sked makes the net especially potent if it can add another breakout hit.

Key swing shows could be Sunday laffers “Bernie Mac” (new night) and the critical fave “Arrested Development,” which will look to pump new blood into the night.

NBC

Sexed-up Thursday laffer “Coupling” hasn’t worked, nor has legal drama “Lyon’s Den” on Sunday. Monday drama “Las Vegas” has held up well, though.

On Friday, dramedy “Miss Match” struggled in its original 8 o’clock slot but has looked perkier at 9, while “Third Watch” has been moved to the night’s 10 o’clock hour.

Tuesday laffers “Whoopi” and “Happy Family” are performing better than anything the net has tried in the opening hour in years, and one of them could be headed for Thursday to replace “Coupling.” “Whoopi,” in particular, would make a nice bridge from “Will & Grace” and “ER.”

CBS

Friday’s “Joan of Arcadia” and Sunday’s “Cold Case” regularly challenge for their slots’ lead in adults 25-54, while Monday comedy “Two and a Half Men” is retaining most of its “Everybody Loves Raymond” lead-in.

Elsewhere, though, problems have sprung on other nights, as vets “Raymond,” “Judging Amy” and “The District” are fading. Net also misses “Amazing Race,” which could be back at midseason.

ABC

The Alphabet is rebuilding one half-hour at a time, as all four of its new comedies look solid even though none of its dramas is working.

Friday’s revamped “TGIF” lineup is a winner, led by “Hope & Faith” at 9, while 8:30 newbies “I’m With Her” (Tuesday), “It’s All Relative” (Wednesday) and “Married to the Kellys” (Friday) are all performing well.

Among dramas, Sunday’s modest “10-8” looks best, and the net is high on midseason entries “Line of Fire” and Stephen King’s hospital hour.

Overall, net has laid a solid foundation on which to build.

WB

Neither of the Frog’s new dramas, “Tarzan” or “One Tree Hill,” has worked that well, although “Hill” is slowly finding an audience on Tuesday and could be a keeper.

Without a breakout hit, though, net must miss the retired “Dawson’s Creek,” finding itself down roughly 20% year-to-year.

Friday’s “All About the Andersons” should get a shot following “Steve Harvey’s Big Time” on Thursday — making for a nice family hour.

UPN

This weblet is also having a down year, due in large part to big declines for Thursday’s “WWE Smackdown” and Wednesday’s “Enterprise.” Also, sci-fi Wednesday hour “Jake 2.0” has been a bust.

Its Tuesday comedy idea seems to be working, though, with 8:30 rookie “All of Us” among the strongest new performers on any network.

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