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Comedies Rule New Fall Schedule

As the last network to get all its ducks in a row for fall, CBS officially unveiled its schedule Wednesday. That provides the opportunity to step back and look at all the networks’ schedules and predict, among other things, which of those ducks are likely to be dead on arrival.

Biggest trend: A sitcom glut, sparked by the success of NBC’s first-year “Friends” and the aggressive use by ABC and NBC of hit comedies as building blocks.

Last season, the four networks presented a very balanced schedule of new series: 14 dramas, 13 comedies. For the 1995-96 season, there are 11 new dramas on the schedule and 21 new sitcoms.

Biggest move: A total of 18 returning series are coming back in new time periods and/or days this fall. Perhaps the most surprising: CBS, eyeing the success of its rivals in relocating popular first or secondyear sitcoms, has shifted “Cybill” to 8 p.m. Sundays, giving it the time slot occupied for most of the past 11 years by “Murder, She Wrote.”

Other moves, though, may make some people shift their normal “appointment viewing” patterns. “Picket Fences” is shifted an hour, from 10 to 9 p.m. Fridays on CBS; “Roseanne” moves to 8 p.m. Tuesdays on ABC; “Friends” is moved to the leadoff spot on NBC Thursdays; and “Mad About You” is moved to 8 p.m. Sundays.

Dumbest moves: NBC’s “seaQuest DSV” to 8 p.m. Wednesdays (where young viewers will be loyal to “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and smart viewers to “Ellen”), and “Coach” to the spot behind the hit ABC series “Home Improvement.”

Toughest odds: The first two hours of ABC’s Thursday lineup, “Charlie Grace” and “The Monroes,” both of them new shows, may not even be able to get sampled, and Fox’s “Strange Luck,” also a new show, at 8 p.m. Fridays, will need a lot of it to buck what has been, for Fox, a no-win time slot.

Biggest conflicts: These are subjective, of course, but among discerning viewers, one red-flag head-to-head battle will be between Steven Bochco’s new “Murder One” series on ABC and the ultrasuccessful NBC incumbent “ER” Thursdays at 10 p.m.

Personally, I also foresee problems trying to choose among “The Simpsons,” “Mad About You” and “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” on Sundays at 8 p.m. Also, on Fridays, there’s two new face-offs. At 9, there’s “Picket Fences” vs. Fox’s “The X-Files,” and at 10, there’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” on NBC vs. an intriguing new CBS entry, “American Gothic,” starring Gary Cole as a sinister modern-day sheriff.

Biggest question: Does Bochco’s “Murder One,” which essentially is a seasonlong courtroom miniseries delivered in weekly installments, really belong opposite one of TV’s most popular shows (“ER”)? Viewers who miss even one or two episodes of “Murder One” may feel they’ve missed too much to dive back in. A less competitive time slot may have been more nurturing to a series demanding so much loyalty from its audience.

Tags: television