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Swept away Low-rated shows get an early exit to make room for the hits as networks go all out for the May sweeps

Donald Trump's "Apprentice" is finished, ending its low-rated season Sunday on NBC with a minor ratings boost that may not be enough to get it another season.
NBC's "30 Rock," a good show that has sunk like a rock in Buffalo, has its season finale tonight. At least "30 Rock" is assured a second season.

ABC's sweet, lame "October Road," which has performed better than its reviews, also ends its season tonight and may need a ratings boost to come back.

Fox's marriage comedy with Brad Garrett, " 'Til Death," ended its season run a few weeks ago, as did "Prison Break."
Collectively, the early endings illustrate a network practice that has become increasingly popular: getting low-rated series out of the way as quickly as possible before or during the May sweeps.
The opening of the prime-time real estate allows the networks to "supersize" more popular sitcoms such as "The Office"; end long-term comedy series like "King of Queens" with hourlong episodes; extend the finales of popular reality series such as "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" to two hours; and air two-hour episodes of dramas like "Grey's Anatomy."
The May sweeps are notable for the scarcity of expensive, big-event programming. NBC, which used to buy expensive miniseries, is taking the cheap way out on Sundays by playing old theatrical movies like this Sunday's "Along Came Polly" and carrying another of its endless "Saturday Night Live" clip shows on May 6.

After a season in which even TV critics have had difficulty determining if weekly episodes of popular series will be original or repeat episodes, the best thing about May is that you can pretty much be assured that all programs except those airing on low-viewing nights like Friday and Saturday will be original episodes.
Without further ado, here is one critic's list of the top sweeps events.
* "Desperate Housewives," 9 p.m. Sunday, WKBW: Gaby (Eva Longoria) has an engagement party and Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) decides -- again -- whether she loves Mike or Ian more. A week later, Lynette (Felicity Huffman) realizes she loves the new chef (Jason Gedrick) she hired. And on the May 20 finale of this revived series, Gaby isn't the only one getting married.
* "My Name is Earl," "The Office" and "Scrubs" are supersized, starting at 8 p.m. May 3 and continuing May 10 on WGRZ. "The Office" has a one-hour finale on May 17.
* "Grey's Anatomy," 9 p.m. May 3, WKBW: Addison (Kate Walsh) goes to Los Angeles for a road trip that is the much-talked about, two-hour possible spin-off.
* "House," 9 p.m. May 8, WUTV: Dr. Foreman (Omar Epps) resigns, at least temporarily. Epps should have his head examined if he's serious about leaving this show, which has become as popular as "Grey's Anatomy" around here.
* "Bones," 8 p.m. May 9, WUTV: A special episode with an Internet component by Buffalo native Stephen Nathan.
* "Lost," 10 p.m. May 9, WKBW: Ben "begrudgingly" tells Locke some of the secrets of the island. Ben clearly has something in common with the show's writers, who reveal things begrudgingly. A week later, Charlie has to do something so dangerous that Desmond might not be able to save him. The May 23 season finale is two hours.
* "Survivor: Fiji," 8 p.m. May 13, WIVB: The two-hour season finale, followed by the one-hour reunion show.
* "7th Heaven," 8 p.m. May 13, WNLO: It finally goes to cancellation heaven. The CW says goodbye to this show after extending its life an extra season.
* "King of Queens" finale, 9 p.m. May 14, WIVB: The CBS comedy starring Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller ends its nine-year run with an hourlong episode in which the Heffernans have two big decisions: whether to have a baby and whether to move from Queens.
* "Ugly Betty," 8 p.m. May 17, WKBW: The season finale of the season's surprise hit, followed by the finale of "Grey's Anatomy."
* "Scrubs," 9 p.m. May 17, WGRZ: Another hour episode, which could be the last one on NBC. However, if NBC doesn't renew the series, it will land on ABC since it is produced by a Disney company.
* "CSI", 9 p.m. May 17, WIVB: Grissom (William Petersen) and Sara's (Jorja Fox) relationship is "suddenly forced out into the open" after she goes missing in the season finale.
* "Brothers and Sisters," 10 p.m. May 20, WKBW: Justin (Dave Annable) says goodbye to his intense family as he prepares to return to the Iraq War.
* "Dancing with the Stars," 8 p.m. May 21, WKBW: The one-hour performance show finale, with the two-hour results show the following night. Laila, Apolo and Joey all deserve a trophy, but I'm guessing Apolo wins.
* "Heroes," 9 p.m. May 21, WGRZ: The series that may have saved NBC from total disaster ends its season.
* "24," 9 p.m. May 21, WUTV: Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) worst day -- and worst year in six seasons -- comes to a merciful end.
* "American Idol," 8 p.m. May 22 and May 23, WUTV: The hourlong performance finale is first; the bloated two-hour grand finale is the next day. If Melinda and Jordin aren't in the performance finale, count me out.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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