WHAT WITH THE season-opening scheduling stunts, the sneak previews and delayed premieres, the baseball playoffs and World Series programming and counter-programming, it's not until the beginning of November that the networks actually put their prime-time schedules into effect.
But, of course, by this time, something has usually changed. Indeed, it's not even a surprise any more when the schedules the networks so proudly unveil never actually make it on the air in the fall.
This season is no exception. One show, CBS' "Sons and Daughters," was yanked before its premiere. Another, CBS' "E.A.R.T.H. Force" was canceled not long after its debut. NBC gave "Hull High" a failing grade without ever letting it out of its killer Sunday at 7 o'clock time slot.
So, quickly, before things change some more, here's a night-by-night mid-term report card for the three networks' prime-time schedules -- for the new shows and some of the old ones that deserve mentioning -- as they are finally making it to the air in the narrow post-baseball, pre-sweep-month window.
As many thought going in, it hasn't been a year of huge breakout hits, but the overall quality of the medium's offerings has gone up. So, while there's nothing red hot that's getting massive amounts of viewers back from cable and cassettes, there are a number of shows that seem to be slowing the erosion.
"Fresh Prince of Bel Air": Not the freshest hit on TV as NBC hoped, but a decent above-average sitcom.
"The Trials of Rosie O'Neill": Effective if formulaic look at midlife travails.
"Murphy Brown": One of the best comedies on television gets better.
"Designing Women": Not as good as its lead-in but in the top 10.
"American Experience": PBS series offers excellent historical documentaries.
"Law & Order": Excellent acting, meaty stories, though lacks the time to do them justice.
"Roseanne": Still strong, though the beating its star has taken in the media has taken its toll on the ratings.
"thirtysomething": Off to another excellent year.
"Nova": Top-notch PBS science series.
"Frontline": PBS series that makes documentaries the old-fashioned way.
"Cop Rock": Erratic, but excellent. Try it, you'll like it.
"WIOU": Just started, but looks solid.
"Married People": Like too many of the year's shows, barely a winner, but not a loser either.
"The Wonder Years": Hanging in there with poignancy and insight.
"Doogie Howser, M.D.": A bona fide hit in its third year.
"48 Hours": Documentary series rarely disappoints.
"The Simpsons": May be the best show on television.
"The Cosby Show": Tape it and watch it after "The Simpsons."
"Cheers": Still crazy after all these years.
"The Flash": Good action adventure if you don't mind missing "Cheers."
"Doctor, Doctor": Change the channel after "Cheers" for this bit of looniness.
"Gabriel's Fire": James Earl Jones' top-notch work lost in the cross fire.
"L.A. Law": Looks like another good season.
"Evening Shade": Good, not great, chronicle of small-town life grows on you.
"DEA": Neanderthal politics but good visuals.
"Quantum Leap": This sci-fi anthology show hits the mark much more often than it misses.
"Wings": Nice, if not exceptional, comedy has plenty of laughs.
"Midnight Caller": Reliable drama.
"Parenthood": Loses its chaotic feel in the strictures of a half hour, but still well above average.
"Working It Out": Beautifully crafted series about a developing relationship has turned into the best new show of the season.
"China Beach": Exorcising all its Vietnam demons in its last season.
"Twin Peaks": Don't worry about it, just enjoy it.
"American Chronicles": Consistently interesting pseudo-documentaries.
"American Dreamer": You can do worse than this interesting show that just misses the mark.
"Parker Lewis Can't Lose": This is the good high school comedy.
"Get a Life": Erratic, a bit thin, but has a quirky appeal.
"Lifestories": Medical anthology has usually been on the mark.
"Against the Law": Good character, decent execution.
"In Living Color": Cooking with gas in its first full season.
"Uncle Buck": Can't figure out how to maintain its edge without being offensive.
"Ferris Bueller": Solid all-around loser.
Only new show is ''Law & Order,'' a winner.
"Lenny": Lost its edge when it started talking dirty, now on the shelf.
"The Fanelli Boys": Disappointing stock comedy came out with a promising pilot but lousy ratings have followed.
"Babes": Stuff this in a Hefty bag and put it in the trash.
"Beverly Hills 90210": More teen-age angst on Fox.
"Grand": Lame comedy on the schedule only because it has relatives in high places.
"Going Places": A TV show about a TV show, neither of which should be on the air.
"Over My Dead Body": They work too hard to be wacky in this hackneyed genre show.
"The Family Man": Predictable, formulaic.
"Haywire": Totally forgettable video show.
"True Colors": Good premise, lousy execution.
"America's Funniest People": Moronic video comedy show gets its audience by default.
"Good Grief": Undertaker sitcom ought to be buried without embalming.