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Networks dumping losers from schedule

Beth Gillin The Philadelphia Inquirer

Every fall the broadcast networks throw a big handful of new shows against the wall, hoping most will stick but knowing that many an overcooked noodle will slide to the floor.

It’s the third week of the new season, and the linguine’s already dropping.

Losers are being discarded, moved, or shelved. Winners – including “My Name Is Earl” on NBC and “Everybody Hates Chris” on UPN – have been given full-season commitments. And network hopes are high for Fox’s death-row drama “Prison Break, ABC’s alien series “Invasion” and the WB’s ghostly “Supernatural.”

The only newbie besides “Invasion” to crack Nielsen’s season-to-date Top 20 is also from ABC. “Commander in Chief” stars Geena Davis as the multitasking wife/mom/president of the United States and Donald Sutherland as the House-speaker serpent in her garden.

But “Commander” is worrisome to its network because it appeals mostly to older women, whereas young men are the preferred demographic of advertisers.

As for the losers, first in the dump was Fox’s “Head Cases,” starring Adam Goldberg and Chris O’Donnell as mismatched law partners and former mental patients. It died after two outings.

Fox also has yanked, but hasn’t officially canceled, “Kitchen Confidential,” a restaurant comedy that viewers didn’t find tasty – perhaps because it launched with an episode about a fingertip in somebody’s food.

“Sex, Love & Secrets” may soon be gone from UPN. It has seven episodes in the can and could linger awhile, but production of the California soaper shut down after last week’s disastrous debut.

NBC pulled “Inconceivable” from its Friday lineup after only 4.5 million viewers tuned in last week, proving it takes more than Angie Harmon to make infertility entertaining.

And NBC this week shuffled its Wednesday schedule, sending Martha Stewart into battle against ABC juggernaut “Lost” at 9 p.m. and moving Jerry Bruckheimer’s Pentagon drama “E-Ring” back to the 8 p.m. slot.

No prime-time show has generated anything like last year’s buzz about “Lost” and its ABC mate, “Desperate Housewives,” which just keep buzzing.

Fans are still swapping theories about hatches, numbers and odd coincidences on the castaway drama. They’re also speculating about new housewife Alfre Woodard and the man she keeps chained in her basement, and savoring Shirley Knight’s delicious turn as the mother-in-law you want to smack – which is just what Bree did Sunday in front of 27 million “Desperate” fans.

As was the case last year, “Desperate” is the country’s second most popular show, after “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” on CBS.

The “CSI” franchise, along with standbys “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race,” helps make CBS the network with the most viewers. It’s winning Friday night with two spooky new dramas – Jennifer Love Hewitt’s “Ghost Whisperer” and “Threshold” – and the returning math-geek mystery “Numb3rs.”

ABC is in second place, but it’s hotter than CBS because its audiences skew younger, which pleases advertisers. ABC rules Sundays with its sophomore combo of “Desperate” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and wins Wednesdays by pairing “Lost” with “Invasion.”

NBC is stuck in third place – and may slip once again to fourth in January when “24” and “American Idol” return to Fox.

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