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Less than a week before it was set to debut, ABC has pulled "Buddies" off the schedule.

The official word is that the producers of this new sitcom - the same bunch that bring us "Home Improvement" every week - "have decided to reshoot the pilot." The statement from the network and the production company went on to say that the two have "mutually decided to change the concept of one character," and that the show may be on the fall schedule.(In place of "Buddies," ABC will air reruns of "Roseanne" and "Ellen" for a couple of weeks.)

This is very odd, for a couple of reasons. First, the show was supposed to debut on Tuesday right after "Home Improvement," and ABC has been promoting it heavily both on the air and in print ads. To have it yanked at this late date is most unusual.

Secondly, this is the second time in two weeks that ABC has done something like this. The network also heavily promoted the sitcom "Bringing Up Jack," only to pull it off the schedule just days before the scheduled debut on March 28. (In the case of "Jack," there will be no retooling. Six episodes of the show have already been produced and are sitting on the shelf. They'll probably air sometime this summer.)

But one wonders exactly what's going on at ABC.

FOXING AROUND: One also wonders what's doing at Fox these days.

The fourth network was airing "House of Buggin' " on Sundays at 6:30 p.m. Then it replaced "Buggin' " with "The Critic." Then it replaced "The Critic" with "Buggin' ." Now, it's going to replace "Buggin' " with "The Critic" on Sunday, April 23.

"Buggin' " will air on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and a week from Sunday at 8:30 p.m., and might be back in the fall. In the meantime . . . what are the Fox programmers thinking?

NICE TRY, BUT . . . : CBS should be commended for trying to program a nice family movie on Easter.

But, unfortunately, there isn't much to recommend "A Mother's Gift" (Sunday, 8 p.m., Ch. 5). This is a movie that just can't decide what it wants to be.

Nancy McKeon ("Facts of Life") stars as Abbie, a woman who accompanies her new husband (Adrian Pasdar) to the frontier territory of Nebraska at the close of the Civil War. But is this a love story, with Abbie torn between her husband or the wealthy doctor (Adam Storke) who courted her and still hasn't given up years later?

Or is it a story of pioneering? Or is it a story of unfulfilled dreams? Or is it a story of a father vs. a son? Or is it a story of a daughter vs. a mother?

Based on Bess Streeter Aldrich's book "A Lantern in her Hand," the script by Joe Wiesenfeld - in turn based on a story treatment by Earl Hamner and Don Sipes - tries to pack too much into too little time. What results is a dreary narrative that skims the top off of several stories without ever really getting involved in any of them. "The Mother's Gift" itself - a string of pearls - is irrelevant to most of the movie.

The performances aren't bad, but the makeup used to age McKeon and Pasdar is just awful. So is dubbing in a sweet singing voice for Abbie - a voice that couldn't possibly issue from McKeon's mouth.

Just about everyone involved in "A Mother's Gift" gets an A for effort, but a C- (at best) for execution.