Nets leave a good first impression

A glimpse at how the skeds may affect the ratings race

Variety will begin its annual night-by-night look at the fall lineups — and new shows — in August, but here’s an early impression of the skeds presented to advertisers in New York last month, and how they’ll affect the ratings race:

NBC

The three big lineup surprises — Fox’s “House” staying put and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Dancing With the Stars” moving to new nights — forced the Peacock to make a slew of changes to its original sked.

And that’s a good thing, because the first draft gave its new shows little chance to succeed.

But by shifting “Studio 60” and “Kidnapped” to easier 10 o’clock slots and countering hot 9 o’clock shows on the competish with the likes of “The Biggest Loser,” “Deal or No Deal” and a “Law & Order” skein, NBC will keep the lights on in these tough slots.

Although its an eclectic mix of programs (“My Name Is Earl,” “The Office,” “Deal” and “ER”), NBC’s Thursday lineup could actually improve.

CBS

The Eye didn’t have to make a lot of changes, but its rookie shows and the shift of several vets to new timeslots give it a good shot at scoring time-period improvements.

Best move is the rejiggered Sunday, where “Cold Case” is a nice counter to “Desperate Housewives” at 9 and “The Amazing Race” should benefit from football promotion to excel at 8.

“Without a Trace” is no sure thing without “CSI” behind it, but it should do better at 10 than the meager movies of last year. The tradeoff of “Trace” on Sunday and “Shark” on Thursday figures to be a plus.

Comedy could be a concern for CBS, which will miss “The King of Queens” in the leadoff hour. At 8:30, “The Class” won’t get much lead-in support, and it will be going up against the start of “Monday Night Football.”

Also, where is “Out of Practice,” the Eye laffer from last season that seemed best positioned for success?

ABC

The bold shift of “Grey’s Anatomy” to Thursday at 9 is a smart one, but a little support would have been nice. ABC is asking its hot medical drama to compete with “CSI” while getting about one-fourth the lead-in it had on Sunday.

The “Dancing With the Stars” results show or even the buzzed-about “Betty the Ugly” would have been better lead-in choices for “Grey’s” than two unproven comedies that figure to have no chance opposite NBC’s own laffers.

Wednesday drama “The Nine” should become the first show to shine behind “Lost.”

Fox

Biggest question mark is why Fox didn’t attack Thursday (perhaps with “House” at 8), and why it’s putting Jerry Bruckheimer crime drama “Justice” up against both ABC smash “Lost” and CBS success “Criminal Minds.” Its Thursday comedies would have seemed better suited here.

Monday looks like a winner, with “Prison Break” and “Vanished” making for a high-octane drama pair.

The CW

Wednesday (“Top Model” and “One Tree Hill”) and Sunday (“Everybody Hates Chris”-led comedy block) look solid, as do the returning skeds on Thursday (WB dramas) and Friday (UPN’s wrestling).

Monday could be in trouble, though, with the new “Runaway” coming out of “7th Heaven,” which inexplicably returns despite its “series finale” in May. And “Veronica Mars” doesn’t figure to do much, regardless of its lead-in.

Net needs to aggressively develop shows for midseason because most of the hit shows on its inaugural lineup are long in the tooth.

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