Where there’s “The Will,” there’s a really small audience. Which means “The Will” isn’t there anymore.

CBS has yanked the Mike Fleiss-produced unscripted series, in which family and friends were competing for a piece of a wealthy 73-year-old’s estate, after only one episode. It’s believed to be the quickest hook for a new series since the cop show “South of Sunset” didn’t get past its premiere on CBS in October 1993.

“The Will,” which bounced around two networks for more than two years before seeing the light of day, earned that dubious honor by drawing only about 4.2 million viewers for its 90-minute premiere Saturday. Its competition was somewhat atypical in that ABC aired a highly rated NFL playoff game in primetime, but even so, the network could scarcely justify keeping the critically savaged show on the air.

It was by far the least-watched series debut of the season for CBS. In fact, the only first-run episode of a show on the network to draw a smaller audience this season was the final episode of “Clubhouse,” which aired in the same 8 p.m. Saturday spot in November.

For the next few weeks, CBS will plug in repeats of some of its drama series in the timeslot, starting with “Cold Case” this week. The network has also moved up the premiere of “Survivor: Palau” from March to Feb. 17 and will move its other midseason reality offering, “Wickedly Perfect,” to “The Will’s” spot on Feb. 19.

CBS UNVEILS BIGGEST “SURVIVOR’ CAST YET

Any season-opening twists on the 10th edition of “Survivor” are being kept under wraps for now. Whatever happens, though, it will happen to the largest group of castaways in the show’s history.

Twenty people, ranging in age from 21 to 57, will vie for the show’s $1 million prize in the Pacific island chain of Palau when “Survivor: Palau” premieres Feb. 17. CBS had planned to hold the show until March, but mediocre ratings for its replacement, “Wickedly Perfect,” and the tanking of “The Will” led the network to move up the premiere date.

“Wickedly Perfect” will move to Saturdays once “Survivor” returns to the schedule.

The 20 players are two more than any previous “Survivor” has featured. Among the group are three lawyers, a Las Vegas showgirl and a dolphin trainer, along with a New York City firefighter, an English teacher and a hairstylist.

Palau is a small republic (population 18,000 or so) made up of 83 islands in the Pacific, southeast of the Philippines and north of Papua New Guinea. CBS notes that it was part of the Pacific Theater during World War II, and a number of ship- and plane wrecks from the war are in the waters surrounding the islands.

SOAPNET SHOWS SOME “SKIN’

The very short-lived drama “Skin” is getting a second life, thanks to cable channel SOAPnet.

The series, which lasted only three weeks on Fox last season, will get a full run on SOAPnet this year, the Disney-owned network announced Wednesday. That full run consists of eight episodes, the number of shows produced before FOX pulled the plug.

The channel has also picked up “The Monroes,” a Washington-set drama about a powerful political family starring William Devane (“24”) and Susan Sullivan (“Dharma & Greg”) that aired on ABC in 1995. SOAPnet will show all eight episodes, including three that never saw the light of day on ABC.

“Short-lived series have a home on SOAPnet,” says Deborah Blackwell, general manager of the channel. “The acquisitions of “Skin’ and “The Monroes’ continue to establish our brand as a home for all soaps and provides our viewers with a 24-hour soapy environment.”

“Skin” is a Romeo-and-Juliet-like story set in present-day Los Angeles, centering on Adam (D.J. Cotrona), the son of the district attorney, and Jewel (Olivia Wilde, “The O.C.”), the daughter of a porn producer that the D.A. is trying to prosecute. It was also FOX’s first collaboration with bigshot producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Despite heavy promotion during FOX’s 2003 baseball playoff coverage and a fair amount of critical praise, the show tanked when it hit the air, drawing only about 5.2 million viewers in its brief run. It was the first real scripted dud from Bruckheimer TV (not counting the never-aired WB pilot “Fearless”), the hit factory behind the “CSI” franchise, “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case.”

Both “Skin” and “The Monroes” are set to premiere in the spring, joining a SOAPnet stable of prime-time soaps that includes “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Dynasty,” “Melrose Place” and “Dallas.”



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