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CBS' Ailing Doc Show Wants a Second Opinion

The co-creator and one of the stars of CBS' currently benched comedy Out of Practice say that reports of the show's poor performance—including some in this publication—have been greatly exaggerated.

The freshman comedy, which launched last fall in the plush post-Two and a Half Men slot Mondays at 9:30 p.m. ET, was pulled in January in favor of Courting Alex. Out of Practice returned to the lineup in March, on Wednesdays at 8, but was sidelined again later that month. Its status is still undecided.

In the April 17 issue of B&C, a story on the networks' fall plans noted that CBS' New Adventures of Old Christine has held up on Mondays at 9:30, where others, like Out of Practice, “have failed.”

But Out of Practice executive producer Joe Keenan and co-star Christopher Gorham, who plays Dr. Benjamin Barnes, disagree with that characterization. They contacted B&C to point out that the show's ratings grew throughout its run and held up coming out of its Men lead-in nearly as well as its replacements.

“I don't see how you call it a failure,” Keenan says. “CBS made the decision to bench us fairly early on after a somewhat rocky start, but the ratings continued to grow as it went on.”

On average, Out of Practice retained 80% of Men's ratings in the 18-49 demo last fall, trailing the 82% retention for Courting Alex and 90% for Old Christine. But it did trend up to hit a season high (a 4.8 rating in the demo) in its penultimate original airing on Jan. 9.

“I'm not sure why our show has been grouped with Courting Alex as a disappointment, while Old Christine, until recently, has been referred to as an undeniable success,” says Gorham, noting Christine's recent stall in ratings growth.

When Out of Practice returned in the spring, it suffered against competitors like NBC's red-hot Deal or No Deal and was pulled again in favor of a relocated Amazing Race. But Keenan maintains it was knee-capped by a hopeless time slot and a lack of promotion.

“We were assured that, when we returned, the show would be given a great promotional push,” he says. “But we heard from a lot of people that they heard very little about the show.”

CBS hasn't given up on the show yet; there's a chance it could return as a midseason replacement next season (eight unaired episodes await their fate). But network spokesman Chris Ender, noting that CBS does “like the show a lot,” says that it was given every chance.

“We sleep very well at night when thinking about the support given to each of the Monday comedies in that slot,” he says. “If anything, Out of Practice had more of an advantage because of the huge, huge promotional push we gave to Mondays in September to replace Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Stay tuned for the show's final diagnosis.

Wallace Settles Score

Mike Wallace may be hanging up his safari jacket, but the not-quite-retiring 60 Minutes correspondent still knows how to keep folks on the edge of their seats.

Accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Television Bureau of Advertising at the group's Annual Marketing Conference in New York last week, Wallace left the audience breathless when he took a swipe at the man who had just preceded him at the podium, Belo Corp. Vice Chairman Jack Sander.

No sooner had Sander left the stage after accepting B&C's Broadcaster of the Year award with a gracious speech that celebrated the First Amendment in broadcasting, than Wallace stepped up and said, “I guess I'm going to have to be the skunk in this garden party, but your Broadcaster of the Year, Jack, made a bad decision several years back.”

He then reminded the stunned audience that, in 1998, Sander had ordered five Belo-owned CBS affiliates not to air Wallace's report showing a tape of Dr. Jack Kervorkian administering a lethal injection.

As 1,200 broadcasters shifted uneasily in their seats, Wallace the Righteous became Wallace the Mensch. Turns out Wallace, who'd never met Sander before, had confronted him on this matter moments before the two were honored.

“I told Mr. Sander before lunch about my displeasure over his decision back then,” he said. “And he admitted to me he'd questioned ever since if he had made the right decision. That's the kind of man Jack Sander is: big enough to admit he might have made a mistake.”

The crowd sighed in relief.