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Viewers ready for some alternate reality

Top network executives said Tuesday that viewers were ready to get back to regular TV, though they weren't sure just what kind of programming they should be putting on the air.

If Monday night was any gauge, however, at least one of them should be Everybody Loves Raymond, since the series premiere of the CBS sitcom averaged 22 million viewers, according to overnight Nielsen numbers. The annual Hollywood Radio and Television Society gathering of the network entertainment chiefs took place in Los Angeles on Tuesday and was hosted by Politically Incorrect's Bill Maher, who poked fun at his current plight and some of the network executives' current woes.

On the recent terrorist attacks and threats of war, ABC Entertainment Co-Chair Lloyd Braun said he isn't sure reality TV is what the nation needs right now. "I actually worry about that, I'm not sure the country is going to be as excepting of these shows as they were in the past," Braun said.

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker said, "I think in terms of primetime programs, it's been clear over the last few nights alone, I think obviously everything we do and everything we put up pales in comparison to what has happened, but I think what people are telling us is that they are looking to laugh again and both literally and figuratively spend some times with their friends and on television."

When it came to UPN CEO Dean Valentine, Maher didn't hold back. "So Dean, you are suing the network and yet you are still working there," Maher said bluntly. Valentine, who filed a $22 million civil suit against UPN earlier this month over contract incentives, responded, "I've really been looking forward to this question. Obviously it's an odd situation, but it's a contractual dispute and as weird as Hollywood is, the weirdest part of it is, it's had no effect on how the network operates, no effect on our relationship."

A lot of time was given to HBO's success with The Sopranos and the advantages/disadvantages of being at a broadcast network vs. a cable network. "The Sopranos does have an impact on us as broadcasters, there is just no question in my mind about it. The content of The Sopranos is our real world, young people are watching it. The audience is influenced by it." - Joe Schlosser