CBS changes schedule on six nights of the week

Wednesday, May 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Richard Dreyfuss plays a college professor in one of the five new dramas coming to a CBS prime-time schedule that will be different next fall on six nights of the week.

CBS is also moving ``Touched By an Angel'' back to Saturday nights, eliminating one of its weekly movies and bringing Ellen DeGeneres back in a new situation comedy.

Monday, with four comedies and ``Family Law,'' is the only night to stay intact in the schedule that CBS presented to advertisers on Wednesday. CBS will try two new comedies and a reality show in addition to the dramas.

``It's a very ambitious schedule,'' CBS President Leslie Moonves said. ``We're taking a few more chances than our competitors. We can be bold.''

Pax TV also unveiled its fall schedule, which includes a western: ``The Ponderosa'' is described as a prequel to NBC's old ``Bonanza'' series.

CBS has been fighting with ABC for season supremacy this year. With the cancellation of ``Diagnosis Murder'' and ``Nash Bridges,'' the network is making another effort to draw a younger audience.

``The Education of Max Bickford,'' the Dreyfuss vehicle, was given the plum Sunday at 8 p.m. time slot following ''60 Minutes.'' It displaces ``Touched By an Angel,'' which has sagged in the ratings.

Dreyfuss plays a college professor who is passed over for a long-overdue promotion in favor of a character played by a fellow Academy Award winner, Marcia Gay Harden.

In one of the two new comedies CBS is introducing, DeGeneres plays a lesbian Internet executive who moves back to her small hometown. Continuing a general network trend away from sitcoms, CBS will have no comedies on five nights a week.

Like both ABC and NBC, CBS is cutting back to one movie a week, a recognition that feature films are generally doing poorly on broadcast networks.

With ``Touched By an Angel,'' ``The District'' and a new series from ``ER'' producer John Wells on Saturdays, CBS stands in contrast with ABC and NBC, which will both air movies that night. Saturday is generally the least-watched night on television.

``Right now the other guys aren't showing up on Saturday night,'' Moonves said. ``They're throwing in the towel. We believe that there are seven nights to the week.''

CBS is introducing a second reality show, ``The Amazing Race,'' that Moonves described as ''`Survivor' on speed.'' The third edition of ``Survivor'' returns to the schedule in October on Thursday nights.

Two of CBS' three newsmagazines will switch nights. ''60 Minutes II'' will be moved from Tuesday to Wednesday and ''48 Hours'' switches from Thursday to Friday.

``The Fugitive'' and ``Kate Brasher'' are among the other CBS series canceled.

Pax, the struggling seventh broadcast network, is gradually working toward a goal of all-original programming in prime time. Pax now runs a mix of its own shows and reruns of ``Diagnosis Murder'' and ``Touched By an Angel.''

The network is strengthening its partnership with NBC, agreeing to air a repeat of the game show ``Weakest Link,'' as well as the new NBC series, ``Crossing Jordan,'' in January.

One of Pax's most successful shows, ``Doc,'' starring Billy Ray Cyrus, will be aired twice a week in the fall. Besides ``The Ponderosa,'' Pax is introducing one other new series, ``Forbidden Secrets,'' a ``news you can use'' pop culture series with Lee Majors as host.

Other new shows coming to the CBS schedule:

_``The Guardian,'' a drama starring Simon Baker as a young lawyer who must perform community service or risk being disbarred after being arrested for using drugs.

_``Wolf Lake,'' a science fiction drama about a pack of wolves living in human form in a Seattle suburb.

_``The Agency,'' a drama about a secret CIA unit.

_``Citizen Baines,'' the Wells-produced drama about a three-term U.S. senator who must return to his Seattle home after an unexpected loss in his bid for re-election.

_``American Wreck,'' a comedy starring Daniel Stern as a single father of two who runs the local community center.