Front of week is looking a little light
HOLLYWOOD — Monday night is losing one of its top-drawer shows after this season, and there doesn’t appear to be much in this fall’s crop of rookies capable of taking its place.As CBS comedy “Everybody Loves Raymond” begins its victory lap in a couple of weeks, the broadcast nets have assembled for Monday a rather dreary assemblage of shows — running the gamut from lackluster comedies to uninspired dramas, with a who-cares reality series tossed in. Fox’s Hawaii-set “North Shore” played to middling numbers during the summer and has a fall relaunch this week. The night’s other four newbies launch later this month. Overall, while “Monday Night Football” keeps ABC a force on the night in the fourth quarter, Monday remains primarily a two-net race between CBS and NBC. With a nice surge last season, the Peacock overtook the Eye in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen, but CBS continues to be firmly on top in adults 25-54 and total viewers. Here’s a look at how Monday shapes up in the fall: 8-9 p.m. NBC’s “Fear Factor” remains the show to beat, although don’t be surprised if it slips following what was likely a peak season. It performs well among both men and women, and shouldn’t get too stiff of a test from ABC’s competing reality entry “The Benefactor,” a rip-off of NBC’s “The Apprentice” that appears to be just filling space on the net’s sked. “North Shore,” one of those beach-set shows that plays better with the sound off, could benefit by the cast addition of Shannen Doherty but otherwise isn’t much of a threat. Nor is the CBS combo of comedy “Still Standing” and the new Jason Alexander half-hour “Listen Up” — which makes his “Bob Patterson” of a few years back look like “Seinfeld.” The WB’s “7th Heaven” could see a bump in the ratings as former cast faves Barry Watson and David Gallagher return, while UPN also looks stronger by stacking up proven laffers “One on One” and “Half and Half.” 9-10 p.m. CBS goes from zero to 60 with its strong hour of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Two and a Half Men,” which should win in 25-54 and possibly 18-49 most weeks, even with a reduced episode order for the outgoing “Raymond.” “Men” emerged as the summer’s No. 1-rated comedy and gives the Eye a comedy to fall back on after “Raymond” exits. Hour’s only new entry, UPN romantic laffer “Second Time Around,” is perhaps the brightest new Monday star of the season. It should mesh well with the unsung “Girlfriends,” which is back for a third season in the 9 o’clock slot. Looking at the dramas, NBC’s lightweight but likable “Las Vegas” returns for a second season and could pick up some ratings steam. And at the WB, Scott Wolf is a nice addition to the cast of “Everwood,” which remains TV’s most underappreciated show. And then there’s the second edition of Fox’s ghastly surgery skein “The Swan”: It should bring in some femmes 12-34 but, without a substantial lead-in, look for only modest numbers overall. 10-11 p.m. “CSI: Miami” grew a bit in its second season and should remain the class of the hour, winning most weeks in all key categories — except opposite marquee NFL games, which include Dallas-Washington (Sept. 27) and Tennessee-Green Bay (Oct. 11). The CBS crime drama should be able to easily dispose of NBC’s airport drama “LAX,” which despite the promising star power of Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood appears to be neither smart enough nor trashy enough to attract a loyal following. It does seem to be a pretty good fit with lead-in “Las Vegas,” but unless “LAX” improves greatly upon its underwhelming pilot, it looks to be a long shot to remain on NBC’s runway come January. Bottom line The netlets are doing their share to strengthen their Monday position, but the quality of the new skeins trotted out by the Big Four must have cable licking its chops.