HOLLYWOOD — It’s shaping up to be a fresh and freaky Friday on the nets this fall, with three broadcasters starting from scratch on the night and a fourth nearly doing the same.

Twelve of Friday’s 16 series are new to the night, including the entire lineups of ABC, CBS and Fox. The Alphabet’s well-constructed lineup should put up a good fight, and Fox will be competitive in younger demos, but things could cave in on CBS, whose Friday slate is by far its shakiest of the week.

The only shows back for another go-round are NBC’s winning slate (“Providence,” “Dateline” and “Law & Order: SVU”) and the anchor of the WB’s sked, “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”

NBC’s lineup is hardly a killer — especially with leadoff drama “Providence” fading last season — but it should be enough to keep the net on top in its target demos as well as total viewers. Look for ABC to edge Fox for second in adults 18-49, with the reverse order more likely in a close battle for the adults 18-34 lead.

Night’s opening hour will set the tone for each of the nets that have bulldozed their skeds of a year ago, with incumbent “Providence” likely to hold on to win by most key measures.

Dramatic battle

Second season of ABC’s reality series “The Mole” and Fox’s drama “Dark Angel” — both of which aired on Tuesday last year — should battle for the 18-34 lead. A good portion of their potential auds, though, will be tough to reach at 8 o’clock on a Friday night.

CBS, which has been unable to find comedy success on any night but Monday, looks for laffs on Friday this season, but appears overmatched: Neither of its newcomers, Ellen DeGeneres in “The Ellen Show” and Daniel Stern in “Danny,” has generated much heat.

The WB could be a more formidable comedy player in the hour, at least by its weblet standards. Frog net is aggressively promoting its four-laffer block, which after “Sabrina” at 8 includes buzzed-about comedies “Maybe It’s Me” and “Reba.” A nightly win in teens is a good possibility this season.

NBC’s “Dateline” is the only program returning at 9 and again appears to be the fave to win in viewers and the 18-49 and 25-54 demos. After that, though, it’s a three-drama horse race for second place:

  • ABC’s John Stamos starrer “Thieves,” a “Moonlighting” for the new millennium, could break through the clutter, especially if “The Mole II” clicks. Look for it to win in women 18-34.

  • Fox’s soap “Pasadena” has gotten some good early reviews but seems up against the wall in this hour, where the net has struggled for years. Net’s core young-male aud will be busy elsewhere on the night, and older women won’t think of flipping over to Fox.

  • CBS’ “That’s Life,” which struggled on Saturdays last season, gets another shot here in the hour that “CSI” thrived in a year ago. It could carve out a decent aud but doesn’t figure to get much help from its shaky comedy lead-in.

CBS’ “48 Hours” caps the night at 10 for the Eye web and seems destined for third-place finishes. It may inherit some of the newsmag aud from “20/20” (which has moved to Wednesday), but it, too, will be starting from behind thanks to its lead-in and will be fighting for femmes with two lady-leaning mellers.

Old standby

NBC’s entry at 10, “Law & Order: SVU,” will continue to rule in viewers and key demos, but “Once and Again” — moving to its fourth different night in three seasons — should do OK for ABC, especially among women 12-34.

UPN will air male-skewing theatricals in an attempt to boost the ratings on what is easily its weakest night. Net will look to promote its pics during Thursday’s “WWF Smackdown” wrestling, but, again, this isn’t an aud that’s readily available on Friday nights.

Overall, there’s nothing on these skeds that suggests the nets can turn around their second weakest night (behind Saturday). The six webs combined for a 49 share in adults 18-49 last season, and without “CSI” on the night — or anything remotely resembling its breakout-hit potential — cable appears poised to take an even bigger slice of the Friday pie.

Official 2001-2002 Primetime Schedule

for Friday








The Mole II

The Ellen Show


Dark Angel


UPN’s Night at the Movies


Maybe It’s Me

That’s Life




Raising Dad

Once & Again

48 Hours

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Local news



2001-2002 Projections

Overall Viewers:

Adults 18-49:

Adults 25-54:

Adults 18-34: