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Webs ready to revive Friday night.

Friday has been where veteran shows go to die, but that may be changing.

A whopping seven skeins will premiere on Fridays this fall as the broadcasters look to pump new blood into a night that has lacked any real punch of late. Last season alone saw "JAG," "Third Watch" and "Star Trek: Enterprise" wither on the Friday vine.

And although the Friday frosh may not be the cream of the fall crop, it's good to see the nets realize that the only way to improve upon their weak performance here is to find new hits, not settle for diminished returns from fading vets.

At CBS, where crimeshows lock down the other 11 drama slots on its sked, the Eye is tossing away the playbook and trying something different from 8 to 10 with psychic drama "Ghost Whisperer" and alien hour "Threshold."

NBC (with two new hours), Fox and ABC are also shaking things up, while UPN is shifting to "WWE Smackdown," the wrestling series that had been a Thursday staple.

Here's a look at the night:

8-9 p.m.

There's not much for men here, with UPN's wrestling and Fox's comedy block of "Bernie Mac" and "Malcolm in the Middle" their best choices in an hour that includes "Ghost Whisperer," femme laffers on the WB, "Supernanny" on ABC and "Dateline" on NBC.

Pilot for "Ghost Whisperer," something of a cross between "Medium" and "Touched by an Angel," was nothing special, but it could carve a solid femme 25-54 aud here. "Supernanny" or "Dateline" should prevail in 18-49, with the Fox laffers competitive and leading in 12-34.

At the WB, pilot for new comedy "Twins" has a few funny moments, but it's painful to sit through the rest waiting for them. Net would seem to have stronger laffers on the bench in "Misconceptions" and "Modern Men," which could end up here.

9-10 p.m.

Each of the major nets has a chance to win in what's the most wide-open hour of the week.

Inside track goes to NBC with its feel-good unscripted newcomer "Three Wishes" (think "Extreme Makeover: Town Edition"). ABC's comedy block of "Hope & Faith" and "Hot Properties" also looks good.

Although "Hope" faded last year, a stronger lead-in and some new creative blood could help the show rebound. It will also help to have the "Designing Women"-like "Properties" as its lead-out.

Biggest wildcards are new dramas "Threshold" on CBS and "Killer Instinct" on Fox.

"Threshold" has garnered some good reviews but seems out of place on CBS, especially behind the older and more femme "Ghost Whisperer." The core CBS aud also is likely to be watching "Three Wishes."

"Killer Instinct" wants to be a sweeps episode of "CSI" but may be too dark to do much biz here and will have to recruit its own aud with laffers as a lead-in.

The WB's returning laffer combo of "Reba" and "Living With Fran" should continue to do OK, although they'll likely fight with ABC for some of the same (mostly female) audience.

10-11 p.m.

This could become a competitive--and stronger--hour, with CBS' solid crime drama "Numbers" and ABC newsmag "20/20" likely getting a fight from new NBC drama "Inconceivable."

Latter's soapy pilot wasn't bad, and the addition of Angle Harmon can only help. It will skew female but could also be a popular show among couples.

"20/20" should benefit from a stronger 9 o'clock showing by ABC, but "Numbers" could be hurt if "Threshold" stumbles.

Bottom line

While wrestling lifts UPN, the night looks to be a battle between NBC and ABC, with CBS a wildcard if it can get some early-evening traction.

Next week: Saturday
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Title Annotation:TELEVISION
Author:Kissell, Rick
Publication:Variety
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 12, 2005
Words:611
Previous Article:VH1 gives celebs 15 more mins.: advertisers, auds taking notice.
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