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BAD NEWS SENDS CBS REELING

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CBS, which began the season with high hopes and high ratings, is reeling after suffering several blows in the past few days.

The death of Redd Foxx. The defection of one of the stars of its new sitcom "Princesses." Horrible ratings for the baseball playoffs.CBS's dark granite headquarters in Manhattan is known as Black Rock. And these are definitely Bad Days at Black Rock.

Here's a look at how the Big Eye has been blackened:DOES `FAMILY' HAVE A FUTURE? Less than a week after Foxx's death, there are major discussions going on about what to do with his sitcom, "The Royal Family."

Early indications are that the production company, Eddie Murphy Productions, and the studio, Paramount, want the show to continue. CBS has been silent on the issue. (The three remaining episodes of the show will begin airing next week.)

"Royal" could go one of two ways. It could deal with the death of Foxx's character, Al Royal, and restructure the show around his co-star, Della Reese.

Or it could recast the part of Al. And the name being heard most frequently to replace Foxx is Sherman Hemsley ("The Jeffersons" and "Amen.")

It's a tough call. It's difficult to imagine the show without the character of Al, but it would also be nearly impossible to replace Foxx.

And it becomes all the tougher for CBS because "The Royal Family" was showing early signs of turning into a hit.SECOND TRAGEDY: Should "The Royal Family" be unable to survive the loss of its star, it would be the second time this year CBS has lost a series that way.

The network planned to include the late Michael Landon's "Us" on its fall schedule.ONE FEWER "PRINCESS": Rather suddenly, there are only two "Princesses" instead of three - Julie Hagerty has quit the sitcom.

Nobody's talking about what happened, except that the network, the studio (Columbia) and Hagerty have called the decision for her to leave "mutual."

Production has temporarily shut down while producers search for a replacement. And it's also been rumored that there will be no replacement - that Fran Drescher and Twiggy Lawson will carry on without a third co-star.

"Princesses" has turned out to be a rather funny new show, but it hasn't as yet been discovered by the viewers. Its ratings are anemic, at best.

As a matter of fact, CBS has flopped the show with the stronger "Brooklyn Bridge" on Friday nights - this week "Princesses" moves from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.BASEBALL BOMBS: When CBS decided to spend a billion dollars on a multiyear baseball contract a couple of years ago, the thinking was that playoff and World Series ratings would shore up the network's atrocious entertainment schedule.

But, as things have turned out, baseball has damaged CBS's increasingly strong regular lineup.

After finishing in first place during the first three weeks of the 1990-91 season, CBS fell to third last week, largely due to baseball.

NBC won the week by averaging a 13.4 rating and a 22 share; ABC was second with a 12.5/21 and CBS third with a 12.3/20. NBC was boosted by the return of "L.A. Law," which finished No. 4 in the ratings with its season premiere.

Not that the baseball playoffs weren't doing badly enough on their own, but Friday's game between the Blue Jays and the Twins was stomped in the ratings by coverage of the Clarence Thomas hearings - and was the lowest rated playoff game in history.

And the length of Sunday afternoon's game pre-empted "60 Minutes" altogether, tossing out one of the network's top 10 shows.

All is not lost, however. CBS still leads the season to date by a full rating point over NBC and a point-and-a-half over ABC. And the World Series pulls in bigger ratings than the playoffs.

But baseball owners better prepare themselves for a lot smaller TV contract when the current pact expires in 1993.THE TOP 15: 1. "Roseanne," ABC, 21.4; 2. "Murphy Brown," CBS, 20.1; 3. "Cheers," NBC, 19.5; 4. "L.A. Law," NBC, 18.9; 5. "Designing Women," CBS, 18.7; 6. "Coach," ABC, 18.6; 7. "Major Dad," CBS, 18.4; 8. "Home Improvement," ABC, 18.0; 9. "Monday Night Football" (Bills vs. Chiefs), ABC, 17/7; 10. "Evening Shade," CBS, 17.4; 11. "Full House," ABC, 17.0; 12. "A Different World," NBC, 16.5; 13. "Northern Exposure," CBS, 16.4; 14. "Unsolved Mysteries," NBC, 16.0; 15. "Wings," NBC, 15.9.NFL TRIUMPHS: The Thomas hearings beat up on baseball but got tackled by the NFL.

On Sunday afternoon, National Football League coverage on CBS and NBC attracted a combined 42 percent of the audience, while the hearings on ABC pulled in just 17 percent of those watching television.HANGING BY A THREAD: Of course, CBS isn't the only network experiencing problems. NBC still hasn't come up with a new hit this season and has produced plenty of bombs.

Word is that two Sunday night sitcoms - James Garner's "Man of the People" and Robert Guillaume's "Pacific Station" - are both headed for the limbo land of hiatus at the end of the month.

Both have failed miserably, placing as low as the bottom five of the Nielsen rankings.

But chances are they'll return sometime later this season on different nights and times.