CBS will sweep away quizzer ‘Winning Lines’

ABC to bump two 'Sports Night' segs

TV’s lemming-like rush toward gameshows has hit a speedbump: CBS is pulling quizzer “Winning Lines” from its sked for the remainder of the February sweeps.

Meanwhile, NBC may pull Thursday laffer “Stark Raving Mad” for the rest of the sweeps, while ABC will bump two segs of its Tuesday comedy “Sports Night” from the ratings period.

Dick Clark-hosted “Winning Lines” is losing its Saturday night at 8 berth, effective immediately. “Candid Camera,” skedded to air select Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., has also been pulled for sweeps but could return later this season. A previously announced Friday seg of “Winning” will air as skedded this week.

In place of “Winning” and “Candid,” CBS is bringing back “Early Edition” to the Saturday slot this weekend, several weeks ahead of schedule.

While CBS hasn’t officially canceled “Winning Lines,” the show’s long-term chances of survival aren’t great.

Ratings for the complicated numbers-based game have been drifting downward, with this Saturday’s seg attracting just 7.3 million viewers and a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49 — dead last in the slot by both measures. Friday airings have performed marginally better.

CBS initially ordered six segs of “Winning Lines,” then quietly added 13 more half-hour segs to the order for a total of 19 episodes. Unaired segs could pop up later this season or during the summer in a new timeslot; in success, CBS could easily order more episodes for a new run.

Coincidentally, production on “Winning Lines” was temporarily halted Monday due to insurance issues. In the wake of reports that the insurer behind ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” is seeking a huge rate hike, the insurer covering “Winning Lines” has also requested a major increase from Stone Stanley Prods., which produces the show in the U.S. in conjunction with U.K.-based Celador.

Stone Stanley is currently negotiating with several insurance companies for a new policy.

As for “Mad,” NBC quietly pulled last Thursday’s seg of the Warner Bros. comedy from the show’s 9:30 p.m. slot and will decide today whether to bump three remaining sweeps episodes. NBC previously announced plans to take off “Mad” for six weeks, starting next month, to test out the new laffer “Battery Park.”

Imagine’s “Sports Night” will be off ABC’s sked tonight and next Tuesday but is expected to be back for the last Tuesday of the sweeps.