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For Thursdays, Heavy Artillery, 01.31.01 ...


On Thursday and again on Feb. 8, regular viewers of WB's family-friendly "Gilmore Girls," starring Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, will have to make do with the more sultry actresses of "Charmed" -- Shannen Doherty, Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs -- whose show will be broadcast in place of the girls'.

Those who are disappointed by this news can blame CBS and NBC.

WB is benching "Gilmore Girls," its new drama about a mother and a daughter who are very close in age, to protect it from the fallout expected from the battle of the titans shaping up between CBS and NBC on Thursday nights.

As almost everyone within the United States must know by now, Thursday night is when CBS's smash-hit reality program, "Survivor: The Australian Outback," will move to its regular slot at 8. NBC, which has dominated Thursday nights for nearly two decades, has moved to stave off this new threat with some creative scheduling: for the first two weeks of February, during the "Survivor" hour, it will broadcast a 40-minute version of its popular Thursday night sitcom "Friends" and a 20-minute live episode of "Saturday Night Live." In the third week, between 8 and 10, it will show 40-minute versions of "Friends," "Will and Grace" and "Just Shoot Me."

The two networks' schedules are expected to hit the Thursday night landscape with a force powerful enough to hurt seriously even the strongest shows on competing networks.

So in this environment, a show like "Gilmore Girls," which is gaining popularity among young women in its 8 p.m. slot but is still considered something of a yearling, would be seriously challenged.

If "Gilmore Girls" were to lose its ratings during the February sweeps, that would affect how much local stations could charge for advertisements during the next quarter. An 8 p.m. showing of "Charmed," however, is a safe bet for WB because that show will be rated by Nielsen as a special, so any damage incurred will not be counted against the regularly scheduled show in that 9 p.m. slot.

WB also wants to preserve original episodes of "Gilmore Girls" for times when they are likely to be seen, and the first couple of weeks of "Survivor," which will be matched by extra-long episodes of "Friends," are not among them.

"Gilmore Girls" will return to Thursdays on Feb. 15, when WB hopes at least some of the "Survivor" buzz will have worn off.

Despite the established success of "Survivor," it is still notable that a network like WB, popular among young women, would move anything out of the way of something emanating from CBS, long known as a network for older viewers before "Survivor" came along.

Of course WB is not the only network warily girding for Thursday night. Most, however, are holding course and hoping for the best.

ABC will continue to show back-to- back episodes of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" at 8 p.m. UPN is sticking with its wrestling show, "Smackdown!" Although Fox will continue to broadcast movies or reality specials on Thursday nights, it is showing some ingenuity this week with "Surviving the Moment of Impact."

The title suits the network's own predicament on Thursday night, but, according to the Fox Web page, at www.Fox.com, the program will feature "incredible footage of collisions involving trains, trucks and cars out of control."
Credit: NY Times


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