Handicapping Fall TV Race

Two new fall shows on CBS and one on NBC are projected to earn the largest audience shares in their time periods, according to estimates prepared by two major media buying agencies. The Education of Max Bickford, scheduled for Sunday nights at 8 on CBS this fall, is projected to pull a 15 share, according to a combined share estimate of the two agencies. CBS’ Citizen Baines on Saturday nights at 9 is projected to win a 14 share, as is NBC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent on Sunday nights at 9. Share estimates are one of several key tools buyers will use when making their upfront advertising buys with the networks over the next few weeks.

Other shows projected to garner respectable shares of audience, according to the agencies’ research departments, are NBC’s Inside Schwartz (14) on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.; CBS’ The Amazing Race (13) on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. and The Agency (13) on Thursdays at 10 p.m.; ABC’s Bob Patterson (13) on Tuesdays at 9 p.m., Philly (13) on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. and Alias (13) on Sundays at 9 p.m.

Among the shows projected to do lower shares, which the agencies see as candidates for early cancellation, are NBC’s Emeril (8); Fox’s The Bernie Mac Show (6), The Tick (5) and Pasadena (8); and CBS’ Ellen (8.5) and American Wreck (7).

“CBS has had much success over the years at 8 p.m. Sundays leading out of 60 Minutes, first with Murder She Wrote, and then Touched by an Angel,” said a research executive for one of the agencies, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If Max Bickford can maintain the same quality of the pilot by episode seven, Richard Dreyfuss can be the next Angela Lansbury for CBS,” the executive said.

Criminal Intent will edge out Alias in the share battle of Sunday-night 9 p.m. dramas, according to the agencies, with their belief that the aging Fox hit X-Files will show continued audience-share slippage next season. One research exec said Alias would have gotten a larger share estimate at 10 p.m. on Sundays if ABC had showed “some guts” and moved its hit The Practice to 9 p.m.

Both agencies feel that while CBS’ Monday- and Tuesday-night 10 p.m. dramas, Family Law (14) and Judging Amy (16), each entering their third year, will again do solid shares, they could face some competition from NBC’s Crossing Jordan (12) on Mondays and ABC’s Philly on Tuesdays. Both agencies also like ABC sitcom Bob Patterson, but they do not believe it will do better head-to-head than NBC staple Frasier.

Returning shows with the highest share projections are NBC’s ER (24) and Law & Order (19); and CBS’ Survivor (24) and Everybody Loves Raymond (19).