The first casualties of the fall TV season

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If you had ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” in the office betting pool for which new series would be canceled first — and most people did — surprise! You’re wrong!

Turns out it’s CBS’s “Smith” that has the dubious honor of being the first axing of the fall season, having been yanked after just three airings. Ray Liotta’s a great actor, and it would be swell to see him on TV every week, but I guess we’ll have to wait. In the meantime, he’ll presumably go back to beating in people’s heads with baseball bats on the silver screen.

Of course, over at Fox there’s a chance some shows have been canceled without the next of kin being informed yet. See, everything on Fox is on hiatus right now because of post-season baseball coverage, and there’s some speculation that, much like the father who went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back, “Justice” and “Happy Hour” won’t return when the hiatus is over.

It’s a pretty nice arrangement for Fox, really. By covering baseball in October, they have a way of quietly murdering some of their underperforming series. Who’s gonna notice if one or two shows don’t actually come back after the World Series?

NBC, meanwhile, has moved its underperforming “Kidnapped” to Saturday night (starting Oct. 21). SATURDAY?! If you weren’t aware, Saturday is the graveyard. The networks have openly and without any attempt to spin it otherwise GIVEN UP on Saturday night programming. They air repeats, sports and news programs in that block. The most-viewed show on a Saturday usually gets no more than about 5 million viewers, and it’s mostly people age 50 and over.

Which means putting “Kidnapped” there is actually very magnanimous on NBC’s part. It’s an ongoing mystery show, so the few million viewers who are watching are highly invested in it. NBC has told the producers to wrap everything up in 13 episodes, and apparently the plan is to air them on Saturdays. Viewers still get to see how things turn out, and NBC frees up space on the other nights to air less-feeble shows.

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