''Survivor'' returns -- but when will it air? | EW.com

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''Survivor'' returns -- but when will it air?

CBS' hit game show will face tougher competition this time around, says Bruce Fretts

Colleen Haskell

(Haskell: CBS)

”Survivor” returns – but when will it air?

Why is CBS CEO Les Moonves smiling? His network is set to finish third in November sweeps, and his two biggest hopes for the fall season, ”Bette” and ”The Fugitive,” are losing viewers faster than Dr. Richard Kimble can run. On the other hand, underhyped rookies ”C.S.I.,” ”Yes, Dear,” and ”The District” are exceeding expectations. The real reason for Moonves’ grin is that he’s got a little show called ”Survivor II” ready to roll out in January. The question that has all the other network heads quaking is: After its post- Super Bowl debut, where will it end up on the schedule? Let’s examine the possibilities:

Monday/ Tuesday
Moonves has stated that he won’t slate the Australian Outback set sequel on either of these nights, adopting an if it ain’t broke strategy. The Monday sitcom block (”The King of Queens,” ”Yes, Dear,” ”Everybody Loves Raymond,” and ”Becker”) is rock solid, and the addition of Tony Danza has given 10 o’clock drama ”Family Law” some ratings punch. On Tuesday, ”JAG,” ”60 Minutes II,” and ”Judging Amy” form a reliable – if thematically erratic – lineup.

Wednesday
It’s possible that ”Survivor” will return to the 8 o’clock slot where it thrived over the summer, but that would put it opposite TV’s greatest new show, NBC’s struggling ”Ed,” so I’m rooting against it. With the Peacock’s ”West Wing” and ”Law & Order” soaring from 9 to 11 p.m., it’s unlikely the castaways will wash up there.

Thursday
Here’s an intriguing option: CBS could challenge NBC’s long dominant lineup, which has been slowly crumbling in recent seasons. ”Friends” has been showing signs of age at 8 p.m., and if NBC leaves Steven Weber’s unwatchable ”Cursed” at 8:30 p.m., there’d no doubt be massive tune over to the tribal council. The 9 to 10 p.m. hour is more crowded with ABC’s ”Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” as well as NBC’s ”Will & Grace” and ”Just Shoot Me,” and it’s doubtful CBS would take on No. 1 ranked ”ER” at 10 p.m.

Friday/ Saturday
The Eye certainly has holes to fill on these nights – aside from the aforementioned ”Fugitive” on Friday, the new Saturday dramedy ”That’s Life” is dying, and long running actioners ”Nash Bridges” and ”Walker, Texas Ranger” are finally on their last legs. Yet these are the least watched nights of the week – especially among the hip young viewers that ”Survivor” attracted to CBS – so don’t look for host Jeff Probst to flash his dimples here.

Sunday
This is my recommendation: Since ”Survivor II” is premiering on a Sunday, leave it there. It’s the most watched night of the week, and the reality show could fit snugly at 8 p.m. between ”60 Minutes” and CBS’ Sunday movie. ”Touched by An Angel” has seen its ratings descend this season, but it could still do good work for the net on Thursday or Saturday. Better yet, combine the two shows into ”Touched by a Survivor” and replace Roma Downey with that adorable Colleen Haskell.