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‘Man Show’ to yak pack

Kimmel to bow talker in Jan., play off Super Bowl

NEW YORK — ABC has inked comic Jimmy Kimmel (“The Man Show”) to host a new post-“Nightline” latenight talker — effectively killing the Bill Maher-hosted “Politically Incorrect.”

Half-hour skein will bow in January, most likely in conjunction with the Alphabet’s broadcast of the Super Bowl. Kimmel will be on hand today when ABC unveils its 2002-03 lineup to advertisers in New York.

“Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel is also expected to appear onstage at the New Amsterdam Theater as ABC execs attempt to put behind them the controversy that erupted from the net’s failed effort to woo David Letterman.

Details of Kimmel’s as-yet untitled talker are still sketchy, though it’s expected to be heavy on comedy with some celeb guests. Jackhole Industries, the production banner Kimmel runs with “Man Show” co-host Adam Carolla and Daniel Kellison, will likely be involved in the new skein.

Kimmel’s hiring by ABC will mark the end of “The Man Show,” the testosterone-soaked Comedy Central half-hour he hosts. Skein will continue to air original segs for several more months, with Kimmel completing production on a final cycle of 24 episodes.

The first of those 24 segs will bow in August, with the remaining 14 slated to air during the first part of 2003. That means Kimmel will be seen on both ABC and Comedy Central for several months. Overall, 100 segs of “Man Show” will have been produced since the skein’s 1999 launch.

Kimmel’s voice will also be heard on the upcoming Comedy Central animated laffer “Crank Yankers.”

Decision to dump Maher is no surprise.

A few weeks after ABC lost its bid for Letterman, Disney execs went to great lengths to publicize their support of Koppel and “Nightline.” By contrast, execs remained mum whenever reporters asked about Maher and “PI.”

Ratings for “PI” have been solid but never spectacular. And Maher lost some advertiser support after the Bush White House misinterpreted a remark Maher made about the U.S. military in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Maher’s contract expires in the fall. It’s unclear when the final “PI” will air or how ABC may fill any gap between the demise of “PI” and the premiere of Kimmel’s new skein.

ABC had no comment on today’s expected announcement. Reps for “PI” producer Brad Grey Television didn’t return calls.