ABC SEEKING HELP FROM HIGHER SOURCE FOR FALL SEASON TURNAROUND.
After a dismal season in the ratings, the loss of two popular series to CBS plus the retirement of two long-running shows, ABC is looking for a little help from above - and Disney - in its 1997-98 television schedule.
Have you heard the one about the priest, the preacher and the angel?
They all will be on the ABC schedule in the fall, and so will ``The Wonderful World of Disney.''
But ``Grace Under Fire'' won't. Not even Superman could help. Therefore, ``Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman'' is nowhere to be found on the schedule announced Monday by network entertainment president Jamie Tarses in New York. Neither is ``America's Funniest Home Videos.'' But all three veteran shows have a chance to return as midseason replacements.
Canceled shows were ``Relativity,'' the sweet show with a rabid yet minuscule audience; ``High Incident''; ``Murder One''; ``Dangerous Minds''; ``Townies''; ``Clueless''; and ``Life's Work.'' ``Coach'' and ``Roseanne'' also ended their runs this month. Popular ``Family Matters'' and ``Step by Step'' were stolen away by CBS. ``Clueless'' is expected to be picked up by UPN, which, along with Fox, announces its schedule today.
After a year in which not even a Stephen King miniseries could attract a large audience, change was the theme of the day for ABC.
The 8 p.m. time slot, for instance, will not have one show returning in the same time period on any day. Every prime-time evening will be kicked off with a first- or second-year show. Here's the lineup:
Monday: ``Timecop,'' a new series based on the movie, will join ``Monday Night Football.''
Tuesday:Midseason replacement show ``Soul Man,'' which stars Dan Aykroyd as a single father and preacher will lead off. It will be followed at 8:30 by ``Over the Top,'' from David Letterman's old executive producer Robert Morton, starring Tim Curry as an unemployed actor. ``Home Improvement'' will be back at 9 p.m., followed by new comedy ``Hiller Diller,'' starring Richard Lewis and ``Saturday Night Live'' alum Kevin Nealon as a team of comedy writers. ``NYPD Blue'' will be back at 10 p.m.
Wednesday: Michael J. Fox's ``Spin City'' leads off, followed at 8:30 p.m. by ``Dharma and Greg,'' starring Jenna Elfman as Dharma, a free spirit dog walker/yoga instructor who falls in love with Greg, a wealthy young man. The popular ``Drew Carey Show'' airs at 9 p.m., followed by revitalized ``Ellen'' and ``PrimeTime Live'' at 10 p.m.
Thursday: The lineup is virtually all new. ``Nothing Sacred,'' an hourlong show about a sexy, audacious, funny irreverent priest starts off the night. It's followed at 9 p.m. by ``Cracker,'' starring Robert Pastorelli as sarcastic L.A. police psychologist Gerry ``Fitz'' Fitzgerald. This is a remake of the quality British drama that appears on A&E. The night concludes with the first installment of ``20/20.''
Friday: Urkel or no Urkel, Friday still will be filled with kid-coms in ABC's trademark ``TGIF'' style. ``Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,'' one of the few hits of this past television season, has the 8 p.m. slot, and will be followed by ``Boy Meets World.'' The staples will be followed by new shows ``The Genie Show,'' about a single mom who inherits a genie, and ``Teen Angel'' about a teen-ager who dies and comes back as an angel to help his friend. They are followed by another ``20/20.''
Saturday: ABC will battle NBC's ``Thrillogy'' lineup with a kind of law enforcement night. Brillstein-Grey's ``C16: FBI,'' with Eric Roberts and D.B. Sweeney, about a young, hip FBI team, will be followed by Stephen Bochco's ``Total Security,'' starring Jim Belushi and James Remar as two elite professionals whose job it is to ensure the safety and anonymity of their clients. At 10 p.m., David E. Kelley's stellar law drama ``The Practice'' squeaked its way back onto the lineup.
Sunday: It's movie night. ``The Wonderful World of Disney'' will air from 7 to 9 p.m., followed by the ABC Sunday Night Movie.
Photo: (1) Eric Roberts is part of a hip FBI team in ABC's ``C16: FBI.''
(2) Jim Belushi stars in Stephen Bochco's ``Total Security.''