‘Danza,’ ‘Hitz’ get the ax

NBC on Friday canceled its low-rated Wednesday sitcom “The Tony Danza Show,” while UPN has decided to pull the plug on the Tuesday Andrew (Dice) Clay sitcom “Hitz.”

“Danza,” from Columbia TriStar TV, will be off the air immediately, while “Hitz,” from Paramount, will remain on the air for now, but will shut down before completing production on the last six of its 22-episode order.

Danza is one of several high-profile stars who commanded huge 22-episode commitments from networks this season. So far, the bigger the commitment, the worse the failure. The sitcom “Jenny,” which landed at NBC after a fierce bidding war, and ABC’s “Timecop” have also been disappointments.

In failure, these deals can cost the webs millions. For Danza’s deal, NBC promised to pay the former star of “Who’s the Boss?” for 22 new episodes, regardless of the show itself, so now the web must negotiate a settlement directly with him.

The show may have flopped because it was a family comedy on an otherwise young, yuppie network. Despite his name recognition, though, the cards were stacked against “Danza” from the start of the season because NBC chose to put the frosh show in the unprotected 8 p.m. timeslot, followed by another new show, “Built to Last,” which was canceled earlier this season.

The show tanked, and NBC yanked it for the November sweeps, relaunching it at 8:30 p.m. between episodes of “3rd Rock From the Sun” two weeks ago. It wasn’t much more successful there. In two airings, the show rated a fourth-place 6.2/10 and a 5.3/8 in homes and a 3.4 and 3.0 in adults 18-49.

The failure of NBC’s 8 p.m. Wednesday hour also has severely shrunk the audience of what was a hit show, “3rd Rock.” That sitcom has struggled mightily against “The Drew Carey Show” since it moved from Sundays to Wednesdays at 9 p.m. this season.

Next week, NBC will air another struggling sitcom, “Men Behaving Badly,” at 8:30 p.m. leading into “3rd Rock,” and specials will air there the following two weeks. NBC is expected to set its Wednesday schedule for January sometime this week.

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