ABC’s likely to take on alpha role

Fall 2006: Wednesday night line-up

ABC ruled Wednesday nights last fall, and the net has only strengthened its position with the addition of two shows.

Smash drama “Lost” will now be preceded by hoofing hit “Dancing With the Stars” and followed by promising new drama “The Nine” — three serialized skeins that should keep viewers glued to the Alphabet at midweek.

CBS, a solid second in demos on Wednesday last fall, looks to stay that way with its lineup of dark dramas that includes the intriguing new “Jericho.” This should also be the best night of the week for the CW, but things could get a bit rocky for NBC and Fox.

Overall, five new dramas and two new comedies will bow by mid-November on the five broadcast nets.

Here’s a look at the night:

8-9 p.m.

ABC figures to capture this hour in key demos with the “Dancing” results show, which had previously scored well when it aired on Friday last winter. Like the performance edition on Tuesday, women 35-plus will make up the biggest share of its audience.

“Jericho,” which examines how a small town in Kansas reacts to being shut off from the world due to a nuclear incident, looks promising and should open well among both men and women. If enough men stick around, it could make CBS a player in an hour where it has long struggled.

Fox’s “Bones” is “Jericho’s” drama competish, and the second-year crime procedural will do OK but won’t be as big a draw without “American Idol” as its skedmate.

It could be a tight battle for fourth place between the CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” and NBC’s comedies “20 Good Years” and “30 Rock.”

Of the laffers, “30 Rock” — among the worst-titled programs in memory — has more potential, but it could get lost in a slot where NBC hasn’t gone for yuks in years. Look for “Scrubs” to come out of mothballs at some point to make for a better partner for the Tina Fey newbie.

“Model” could be dented by “Dancing,” but it should remain first or second among women under 35.

9-10 p.m.

ABC’s “Lost” can’t be beat here — although it won’t have a huge fall presence under the net’s plans to dole out just six segs early and then return with all originals starting in February. (Sharing the timeslot with “Lost” is the new Taye Diggs drama “Daybreak,” which will bow Nov. 15.)

Drama competish comes from solid CBS soph “Criminal Minds” and Fox’s Jerry Bruckheimer hour “Justice.” Latter is on the wrong network and in the wrong timeslot, but it is the net’s best new offering of fall, so look for Fox to give it a shot elsewhere on the sked if it fails here.

Although not an ideal lead-out from the more urban “Top Model,” CW teen sudser “One Tree Hill” should do fine in women 18-34, with its most direct competish coming from NBC weight-loss skein “Biggest Loser” on its new night. Latter has been a quietly consistent performer and could pick up viewers from ABC when “Dancing” ends.

10-11 p.m.

ABC didn’t make good use of the post-“Lost” hour last year, but “The Nine” gives it a much better shot at securing a large aud of both men and women. Pilot for the hostage-aftermath drama, with its taut writing and great cast, is clearly the best among the new dramas on the nets this fall.

“The Nine” could vault to the slot lead over “CSI: NY,” a steady performer but nowhere near as strong as the other “CSI” skeins.

“Heist” didn’t work here for NBC last spring, and there’s nothing to suggest the uninvolving “Kidnapped” will either. Also working against the skein is that unlike ABC and CBS, which have compatible drama pairings from 9 to 11, “Kidnapped” will follow “Biggest Loser.”

Bottom line

If “The Nine” clicks, , ABC will capture Wednesday by a larger margin than any net wins any night this fall.

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