ABC, which fell into third place in the ratings this past season, has done some major retooling for this fall. In addition to eight new series, the network will shift nine shows to new time slots and has changed the title of yet another.
Only half-a-dozen series will remain unaffected. Even "Monday Night Football" will be moved up an hour, with the pregame starting at 6 p.m. Mountain Time.ABC's most aggressive move is on Tuesday night when it will move "Spin City" to the 8 p.m. time slot opposite "Just Shoot Me." The powers that be at ABC obviously believe the latter show is vulnerable and are looking at the night as an opportunity now that NBC is moving "Frasier" to Thursdays.
ABC is going ahead with plans to revive "Fantasy Island," although the show will have more of an edge and off-kilter sensibility than the schmaltzy version that ran from 1978-84.
ABC is retiring from the Sunday-night movie battles, leaving CBS and NBC to duke it out. Instead, the network will move "The Practice" and "20/20" to that night.
As for "20/20," ABC confirmed reports that it will consolidate its news magazine under a single banner - taking a page from NBC and "Dateline." In addition to the Sunday and Friday airings of the show, "PrimeTime Live" on Wednesdays will be rechristened as a third edition of "20/20." How the duties of the current anchor teams - Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters of "20/20" and Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson of "PrimeTime Live" - will be divided up has yet to be announced.
ABC isn't giving up on movies altogether. In addition to "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sundays, the network has scheduled a weekly movie night on Thursdays.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the low-rated "America's Funniest Home Videos" survived and received a spot on the Saturday-night schedule.
ABC's new half-hour comedies:
Brother's Keeper (Fridays at 8:30 p.m.) stars William Ragsdale ("Herman's Head") as a straight-laced college professor quietly raising his young son (Justin Cooper of "Liar, Liar") until his outrageous brother (Sean O'Bryan) - a notorious "bad boy" NFL star - moves in with him. Bess Meyer also stars. From the producers of "Dave's World."
The Hughleys (Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.) is a family comedy about a man (D.L. Hughley) who seems to have a great suburban life but can't enjoy it because he worries that he will lose touch with his African-American roots. Chris Rock is one of the executive producers.
The Secret Lives of Men (Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.) is about three best friends (Peter Gal-lagher, Brad Whitford and Mitch Rouse) who become each other's surrogate families after all go through divorces. From Susan Harris, the creator of "Soap" and "The Golden Girls."
Sports Night (Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.) is set behind the scenes of the "fast-paced, cutthroat world of professional sports and the people who report on it." It's an ensemble comedy about the people who put on a "SportsCenter"-ish cable program.
Two of a Kind (Fridays at 8 p.m.) stars Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen ("Full House") as opposite twins - one's a tomboy, the other's a super student and a bit boy-crazy - who conspire to bring their single father together with their newly hired nanny. Not surprisingly, this is from the producers of "Full House."
And the network's new hourlong series:
Cupid (Saturdays at 9 p.m.) is a romantic comedy about a man (Jeremy Piven of "Ellen") who is "attractive, sarcastic, irreverent, and claims to be Cupid." He explains that he was "kicked off Mount Olympus for un-godlike behavior" and is now forced to "do time" on Earth. His sentence is to unite 100 couples without any magic. He's also formed a mutual attraction with his psychiatrist (Paula Marshall). From one of the producers of "thirtysomething" and "My So-called Life."
Fantasy Island (Saturdays at 8 p.m.) is an updating of the old series by Barry Sonnenfeld, the director of movies like "Men in Black," "The Addams Family" and "Get Shorty." Malcolm McDowell takes over the role of Mr. Roarke (previously played by Ricardo Montalban), and there's no Tattoo. Roarke is assisted by three "fantasy facilitators" who make the guests' every dream - and nightmare - come true. Fyvush Finkel ("Picket Fences") and Sylvia Sidney co-star.
Mr. Chapel (Thursday at 7 p.m.) stars Michael Madsen as a man who "adores children, loves chocolate and spends his free time crafting unique punishments for criminals who have outsmarted the legal system." A crime victim himself, he comes up with "macabre" but non-violent punishments for the bad guys.
ABC has also announced a couple of midseason replacement series:
It's Like, You Know . . . is a comedy that takes a "scathing and hilarious" look at Los Angeles through the eyes of a born-and-bred New Yorker - a freelance writer who discovers L.A. isn't what he thought it was. The oddest thing here is that Jennifer Grey stars as herself, an actress "whose celebrity status has been threatened by a nose job which has rendered her virtually unrecognizable."
Strange Days is an hourlong drama from "X-Files" writer/
executive producer Howard Gordon and "Chicago Hope" writer/
producer Tim Kring, which is described as a "mind-blowing exploration of a nefarious world where big business funds big science." The main character is a man exposed to chemical weapons during the gulf war who gets caught up in unusual doings.
Among the shows ABC canceled are "Grace Under Fire," "Time Cop," "Over the Top," "Hiller and Diller," "Ellen," "Nothing Sacred," "Cracker," "You Wish," "Teen Angel," "C16: FBI," "Total Security," "Prey" and "Something So Right" (which was canceled by NBC a year ago).
"Soul Man" was axed by ABC, but the producers of that show are in negotiations with UPN, and the sitcom may end up on that network.
ABC's fall schedule
New shows are in bold; an asterisk indicates a returning show moving to a new time slot - or returning under a different title.
Wonderful World of Disney 6 p.m.
20/20* 8 p.m.
The Practice* 9 p.m.
Monday Night Football* 6 p.m.
Home Improvement* 7 p.m.
The Hughleys 7:30 p.m.
Spin City* 8 p.m.
Sports Night 8:30 p.m.
NYPD Blue 9 p.m.
Dharma & Greg 7 p.m.
Two Guys . . . 7:30 p.m.
Drew Carey 8 p.m.
The Secret Lives of Men 8:30 p.m.
20/20* 9 p.m.
Mr. Chapel 7 p.m.
ABC Thursday Night movie 8 p.m.
Two of a Kind 7 p.m.
Boy Meets World 7:30 p.m.
Sabrina 8 p.m.
Brother's Keeper 8:30 p.m.
20/20 9 p.m.
SATURDAY Funniest Home Videos* 7 p.m.
Fantasy Island 8 p.m.
Cupid 9 p.m.