CBS makes small changes to its successful lineup


Blessed with a bounty of successful series, CBS unveiled a fall lineup with minimal changes yesterday.

One comedy and three dramas will join a schedule that boasts 18 returning series, including six newcomers from the current season. One of the new series coming back, The New Adventures of Old Christine, officially breaks the Seinfeld jinx. Julia Louis-Dreyfus becomes the first Seinfeld cast member to have a subsequent series picked up for a second season.

As expected, CBS became the final network to dump a weekly movie block. The Sunday Night Movie will be replaced by two established hit series. Cold Case slides back an hour to take on Desperate Housewives, and Without a Trace relocates from Thursday. Cold Case's post-60 Minutes slot will be filled by the double Emmy-winning reality show The Amazing Race.

Other than the movie, the only cancellations of note are first-year comedies Out of Practice and Courting Alex, either of which might have been renewed on a less prosperous network. Long-running and still-popular The King of Queens was put temporarily on the shelf for a midseason return.

The four new shows are spread over the week. Shark, starring James Woods as a take-no-prisoners defense attorney turned prosecutor, has the mixed blessing of inheriting Without a Trace's Thursday hour. It will receive one of the strongest lead-ins on TV from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation but it will have to live up to Without a Trace's dominance over ER.

The lone new comedy, The Class, also lands in a gilded slot, between last year's freshman hit How I Met Your Mother, which moves to the Monday leadoff position, and TV's highest-rated sitcom Two and a Half Men. David Crane of Friends is co-creator of the show about third-grade classmates who reunite 20 years later. Jason Ritter, the late John Ritter's son, is the most recognizable name in the cast.

Smith, which will close Tuesdays, is more star-driven. Ray Liotta plays a criminal mastermind whose band of crooks pulls off high-profile heists. Virginia Madsen plays his wife.

The other newcomer, Jericho, paints a bleak Armageddon scenario at the start of Wednesday. A small Kansas town is isolated by a nuclear attack, its residents unsure if they are the only survivors on Earth. Skeet Ulrich and Gerald McRaney head the cast.

Three new series are being held in reserve. 3 LBS (supposedly the weight of the brain) is set in the world of neurosurgeons and stars Stanley Tucci; Joe Pantoliano plays a colorful mayor of Providence, R.I., in Waterfront; and Patrick Warburton stars in the dating-scene comedy Rules of Engagement.

Tom Jicha writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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