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Webs wield axe

Networks unplug rookies, scramble skeds

Fox has paved over “The Street,” while ABC and NBC have altered their Tuesday night game plans, as the webs announced a slew of midseason sked changes Thursday.

Also officially dead: As expected, NBC’s “The Michael Richards Show” (Daily Variety, Dec. 6), and UPN action drama “Freedom.” On the critical list, meanwhile, is ABC’s “Madigan Men,” which has been put on indefinite hiatus, with new showrunners and new cast members on tap should the show return.

With “Richards” out of the way, NBC will launch a revamped Tuesday lineup Jan. 9. Ever-portable “3rd Rock from the Sun” will shift to the 8 p.m. lead-off position, pitting it against another Carsey-Werner produced skein (Fox’s “That ’70s Show.”) Frosh laffer “DAG” moves to 8:30 p.m.; Peacock has ordered four more episodes of the NBC Studios-produced series.

Taking over “DAG’s” 9:30 p.m. slot: “Three Sisters,” an NBC Studios laffer starring Vicki Lewis, A.J. Langer and Katherine LaNasa as a trio of offbeat siblings and their various relationships. Dyan Cannon and Peter Bonerz star as their parents. “Frasier” remains as NBC’s 9 p.m. anchor.

NBC Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier said the order of addition segs of “DAG” is proof of the web’s “confidence that it is positioned to be part of an especially fun hour with ‘3rd Rock.’ ”

No skid marks yet

Fox has not announced any details on when “The Street” will officially hit the road, or what will replace it. Skein is slated to air a new installment next week; Fox had long planned to air movies that last two Wednesdays of the year.

Season to date, after six weeks, “The Street” has averaged 5.1 million viewers.

Web insiders suggest Fox is strongly considering a four-comedy Wednesday lineup in January, with midseason laffer “Grounded for Life” a possibility. Repeats of “The Simpsons” or “That ’70s Show” could fill some gaps on the night, but the big question is whether Fox will move “Malcolm in the Middle” from Sundays to Wednesdays.

Latter decision could hinge on where CBS slates “Survivor: The Australian Outback.” Fox is unlikely to pit the still-young “Malcolm” opposite the Eye’s reality juggernaut.

ABC digs for ‘Mole’

Over at the Alphabet web, net will premiere reality newcomer “The Mole” on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Jan. 9, replacing that night’s installment of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which slides to Fridays at 8 p.m. starting Jan 5.

ABC execs hope the Tuesday “Millionaire” crowd will stick around for another reality series, albeit with a completely different concept. “The Mole” follows 10 players who must complete a series of tests while trying to figure out the identity of a “mole” whose goal is to sabotage the team’s efforts.

Meanwhile, the new Friday “Millionaire” will bump “Two Guys and a Girl” an hour later to 9 p.m., and “Norm” back to 9:30 p.m. “The Trouble with Normal” had previously been pulled from the night; joining it in the hiatus pile is laffer “Madigan Men.”

Still breathing

“Madigan” isn’t completely dead, however; ABC execs are waiting to see the results of new episodes now being shot. Cindy Chupack quietly left last month as showrunner; Mitch Hurwitz has come in as executive producer along with co-exec producers Rick Dresser, Tom Leopold and Mark Flanagan. George Wendt and Christine Ebersol have also joined the show’s cast, which is led by Gabriel Byrne.

“Dotcomedy,” which will have aired three episodes by January, will go off the air; net execs hope to give the show time to accept viewer submissions for a potential return engagement after the show’s brief December run.

“The Mole” runs for nine weeks; rival net execs called ABC’s decision to air “The Mole” on Tuesdays risky, considering the conventional wisdom that had the net skedding the skein on Fridays. But should “The Mole” not work out, those execs note that ABC could swap it back with “Millionaire” rather easily.

Over at UPN, the network has been struggling on Friday nights despite its monster “WWF Smackdown” vehicle on Thursdays. Although the net canceled 8 p.m. entry “Freedom,” the night’s other skein, “Level 9” remains.

“Freedom” averaged a 1.7 rating and 3 share among homes and 2.6 million viewers after six episodes; two more segs are in the can.

Network sources say the net may opt to air two half-hour series rather than another drama in the slot; laffers on the bench include the foamation comedy “Gary and Mike” and sketch laffer “Off Limits.”

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