Sizing Up the Ratings Future - and Survival Rate - of Fall Series
FOR decades now, viewers and media analysts have been decrying the ratings system used by networks to determine a show's fate.
Yet those same people are often curious about a show's prospects in the ratings race. Okay, it's a bad system, they say, but ... I wonder how the new entries will fare?
The fall lineup below shows the opinion of some industry handicappers about the outlook for new series:
* ``The ABC Family Movie'': Original films, Disney films, and other fare. Outlook: fairly good.
* ``On Our Own'': Seven orphaned siblings - five brothers, two sisters, 11 months to 20 years - try to stick together. Prospects: Pretty good.
* ``Blue Skies'': Two men run a mail-order business. A new partner - she has an MBA and strong ideas - hopes to improve things. Chances: strong.
* ``Me and the Boys'': A widower tries to do the best he can by his three sons, and his mother-in-law is there to help (well, that's what she calls it). Outlook: good.
* ``All-American Girl'': A headstrong Korean-American woman of 22 lives with her traditional family, resulting in new version of a classic cultural conflict. Future: so-so.
* ``My So-Called Life'': A 15-year-old high school girl tells deals with the challenge of growing up in today's society, telling her story in a first person voice-over. Outlook: dim.
* ``McKenna'': An Oregon rancher and his family operate a business offering tourists a taste of the outdoor life. Prospects: poor.
* ``The Five Mrs. Buchanans'': The lives of four sisters-in-law interact as they cope with a sharp-tongued mother-in-law - the fifth Mrs. Buchanan. A long shot.
* ``The Boys Are Back'': An older couple thinks their time has come to settle down. In move their grown sons, and the ``empty nest'' is now full. Forecast: quite good.
* ``Daddy's Girls'': A man whose wife has abondoned him looks to his three highly different daughters - two grown, one a teen - for support. Chances: slim indeed.
* ``Touched By an Angel'': An angel named Monica has the earthly mission of watching over kids destined for greatnesses. Prediction: gloomy.
* ``Due South'': Two Chicago cops are the odd couple of law enforcement: One is a straight-laced ex-Mountie, the other a street-smart detective. Prospects. Not very good.
* ``Chicago Hope'': A big Chicago hospital is the setting for high-tension drama - both medical and human. Outlook: good.
* ``Under Suspicion'': A squadroom of male cops is the tough testing ground for the the one woman member of the force. A maybe.
* ``Something Wilder'': A middle-aged man suddenly faces the duties of fatherhood when he marries a younger woman with twin 4-year-old boys. Chances: very remote.
* ``Sweet Justice'': A sharp New York lawyer teams up with a lawyer in a small Southern town, and the two women take on some unorthodox cases. Future: dim.
* ``Earth2'': Hundreds of years from now, people in a space station seek to land on a remote planet and colonize it. Prospects: weak.
* ``The Martin Short Show'': Comic Martin Short plays a family man who is also the star of a hit TV show. A maybe.
* ``The Cosby Mysteries'': Bill Cosby, a retired New York City criminologist and forensic expert, keeps getting lured back into solving crimes. Prospects: strong.
* ``Friends'': Call it ``Twentysomething'' - six young people face life in Manhattan. Outlook: Fair to good.
* ``Madman of the People'': An irascible columnist (Dabney Coleman) finds himself working for a new publisher - his daughter. Future: very bright.
* ``E.R.'': Five young resident doctors are the focus of a drama set in the emergency room of a Chicago hospital. (It not only sounds like CBS's ``Chicago Hope'' - it's airing opposite it.) Prospects: solid.
* ``Fortune Hunter'': Action adventure featuring a former British agent, Carlton Dial, who now works for an American firm that specializes in ``recovering things.'' Chances: weak.
* ``Hardball'': A major-league baseball team has almost as complete a cross section of character types as did those old World War II movies. Another maybe.
* ``Wild Oats'': Four people in their 20s - two men, two women -
struggle with relationships in the new society. Outlook: gloomy.
* ``Party of Five'': Five orphaned siblings - from age 11 months to 24 years - try to stay together in one household. Future: nonexistent.
* ``Models'': Tough older woman guides young models toward success in a world many are not ready for. Chances: good.
* ``New York Undercover'': Two partners - one black, one Latino - of the New York City police deal with life on and off duty. Prospects: shaky.
* ``M.A.N.T.I.S'' : Sci-fi drama about a paraplegic scientist gains brief periods of superhuman strength by way of the futuristic device that gives the show its title. Hopes: all but invisible.