Networks deciding which shows will die


Television puts the May in mayhem this month, whether it’s nature turning against us in NBC’s “10.5: Apocalypse” and ABC’s “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America” or Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) nearly destroying the global village to save it in Fox’s “24.”

The broadcast carnage is all too appropriate for the networks, which will be meeting with advertisers in New York at midmonth to unveil their fall schedules.

Called the “upfronts” – because that’s how TV networks like to get paid – they’re upbeat occasions where the more successful suits recount the high points of the past year and everyone, successful or not, promises to do better in 2006-07.

And then they all go get a drink.

For viewers, who generally aren’t invited to the after-parties, the stories emerging from the upfronts will inevitably cause some disappointments, as favorite series die to make way for new shows that they’re months away from even seeing, much less liking.

So I could tell you that “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin will likely have a new show, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” on NBC this fall, but if you’re still in mourning for “The West Wing,” which is bowing out May 14, that may be only partial consolation.

I’ll admit I’m more worried about fictional Everwood, Colo., the setting for the WB’s “Everwood,” than I am about anything that happens in “10.5: Apocalypse.”

In “10.5,” after all, we have Kim Delaney once again standing between us and the End of the World as We Know It, but “Everwood,” whose entire network will disappear this fall to make way for a UPN-WB hybrid they’re calling the CW, appears to have no such champion.

Other shows I’m worried about:

• UPN’s “Veronica Mars.” Veronica (Kristen Bell) does have a champion in new CW president Dawn Ostroff, but given the pounding her show’s taken in the ratings against, first, “Lost” and the “American Idol” results show, and lately, “House,” it’s difficult to be sure it’ll make the cut.

• ABC’s “Invasion.” What started out looking like a remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” has turned into one of television’s most thought-provoking serials, thanks to a twist in which some of the “hybrids” are reluctant to abandon their own humanity.

I’d not only like to see where creator Shaun Cassidy is going with this, but I’d like to see Cassidy, who’s created some of the most intriguing television you’ve probably never seen – “American Gothic,” “Cover Me” – get something to a second season.

• ABC’s “Commander In Chief.” OK, maybe I’m more resigned than worried about this one, which has been mismanaged to the point where it’s barely recognizable as the “West Wing”-lite series that premiered last fall to generally positive reviews, particularly for Geena Davis as the accidental president.

Maybe it was replacing creator Rod Lurie just a few episodes in, or bringing in Steven Bochco – whose record of producing shows that don’t do justice to women characters remains woefully intact – but this one feels as if, in the pursuit of elusive younger viewers, it’s literally been fixed to death.