`Blue' Dark, `Ellen' Out

Posted: January 10, 1997

ABC announced yesterday that it will put ``NYPD Blue'' and ``Ellen'' on hiatus for two months, beginning in March, in order to launch midseason replacement series, including a sitcom starring Arsenio Hall.

Both shows will return in time for May sweeps, the network said.

Not so lucky is ``Murder One.'' The critically acclaimed but little-watched series will leave the air after Jan. 23, which will mark the verdict in the second of the show's three trials this season. That season, likely to be the show's last, will conclude in a three-night, six-hour mini-series scheduled to air April 13, 14 and 17.

``Murder One,'' scheduled against NBC's ``Seinfeld,'' has been regarded as living on borrowed time for much of this season. And ``Ellen,'' despite a recent surge in ratings as it moved to 9:30 p.m. - and a blizzard of press about the possibility that the show's title character will declare herself a lesbian - is 50th in the total-viewer Nielsens for the season to date.

But in sending its top-rated drama, ``NYPD Blue,'' away for several weeks, ABC is taking a chance that it can grow a desperately needed new hit from ``The Practice,'' a legal drama from ``Picket Fences'' and ``Chicago Hope'' creator David E. Kelley.

The Disney-owned network has been struggling this season to find some new hits. So far, of the shows introduced last fall, only ``Spin City'' and ``Sabrina the Teenage Witch'' have made much of an impact, although sophomore entry ``The Drew Carey Show'' is doing well.

Besides the premieres of ``The Practice'' on March 4 and the so-far untitled Arsenio Hall show on March 5, the network also announced the Feb. 27 premiere of ``Vital Signs,'' a reality-based series focusing on major medical emergencies, in the 9 p.m. Thursday time slot now occupied by ``Murder One.''

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