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CBS puts 'Love Monkey' on hiatus

Say goodbye to "Love Monkey" on Valentine's Day and for the foreseeable future.

CBS has announced that it is pulling the low-rated series, in which Tom Cavanagh ("Ed") plays a record producer looking for career satisfaction and romance.

The network's attempt to expand beyond its usual diet of crime series lasted four episodes. The series fared better in Western New York than it did nationally.

Tuesday's episode had a 7.8 rating on WIVB-TV, within range of the 8.4 that "Boston Legal" had on WKBW-TV but well off the 15.2 that "Law & Order: SVU" had on WGRZ-TV. Nationally, its audience of the age 18 through 49 viewers that CBS was seeking declined significantly each week.

CBS announced Thursday that it will be replacing "Love Monkey" on Valentine's Day, Tuesday, with a repeat of "NCIS." A "CSI" repeat will air at 10 p.m. Feb. 21 and the second-hour of the premiere of "Amazing Race" at 10 p.m. Feb. 28.

At 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, CBS will premiere "The Unit," a new action series from David Mamet and Shawn Ryan that follows a covert team of special forces on undercover missions. The same night, "Amazing Race" will settle in to the 10 p.m. Tuesday slot through the rest of its run. "Love Monkey" is officially on hiatus, though it's tough to speculate where CBS will give it a second chance.

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CBS isn't doing "The Unit" any favors. It will be going head-to-head with Fox's "House," which had record ratings in its first Tuesday appearance this season after "American Idol." Locally, Dr. House's decision to temporarily end things with his former love, Stacy (Sela Ward), pulled in an incredible 20.5 rating on WUTV and kept most of the "Idol" lead-in of 23.2.

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While the first "American Idol," Kelly Clarkson, was wowing them at the Grammy Awards, the show that launched her career was winning the head-to-head music competition locally. The "Idol" amateurs on the first Hollywood edition attracted a 22.2 rating on WUTV here Wednesday, with the professionals at "The Grammys" recording a 13.8 during the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. hour on WIVB-TV. The Grammys averaged a 14.4 for its entire broadcast. It had a small impact on ABC's "Lost," which had a 13.8 rating on WKBW-TV from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. when the Grammys had its largest audience.

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NBC's top sports executive, Dick Ebersol, revealed in a conference call Thursday that acquiring Al Michaels as the play-by-play man of its Sunday Night Football next fall came at a price from Disney, the owner of ABC and ESPN.

George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said NBC needed to give something to free Michaels from his contract. He gave Ebersol a list of wants.

Ebersol said he granted Bodenheimer's request for a fair cable deal for coverage of golf's Ryder Cup and allowed the sports cable network earlier access of highlights of the Turin Olympics. Ebersol also granted something on the list that he didn't initially understand.

Disney wanted the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a character that the late Walt Disney created in the 1920s. Oswald's rights belonged to one of NBC Universal's other companies. Ebersol said NBC Universal agreed to the request to reunite Mickey Mouse "with one of his old, old friends."

On the same call, Michaels said he moved from ESPN to NBC to be reunited with his old friends on the Monday Night Football crew, including analyst John Madden. He also is returning to the network where he did his first NFL game in 1971.

"It was the Buffalo Bills at the Minnesota Vikings on NBC," said Michaels. "It went to about five markets." The Bills, who won only one game that season, lost, 19-0.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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