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ABC LOSING CONFIDENCE IN OSMOND'S SITCOM EVEN BEFORE IT DEBUTS

Marie Osmond's new sitcom is still a month away from premiering, but ABC programmers already seem to have lost some confidence in it.

"Maybe This Time," which stars Osmond as a divorced single mother and Better White as her mother, had been scheduled to lead off ABC's Saturday night lineup. But the network has flopped it with the the show it was supposed to lead in to, "The Jeff Foxworthy Show.""Foxworthy" will air at 7 p.m. beginning Sept. 16, while "Maybe This Time" has been moved to 7:30 p.m.

And that's relatively significant for a couple of reasons. First, a network normally puts the show it considers the strongest on first. And, second, the original pilot for "Foxworthy" has been scrapped and that show has just gone into production on a new premiere episode.

In other words, ABC thinks his show is stronger than Osmond's, sight unseen.

And, from the looks of the pilot of "Maybe This Time" that ABC sent to critics, it would be difficult for Foxworthy's show to be weaker than Osmond's.

IS "DONAHUE" DEAD? Not yet, but it may be dying.

Phil Donahue's 28-year-old talk show lost its New York outlet this week. WNBC would rather pay the show's producers $35,000 a week and not air it than continue to put it on when it gets beaten up in the ratings by rivals "Oprah" and "Geraldo."

But without an outlet in the nation's largest TV market, advertising rates for "Donahue's" national spots will have to be discounted. And the show already doesn't have an outlet in San Francisco, the fifth-largest market.

"Donahue" is still seen on 185 stations, but, increasingly, the situation is like the one here in Utah - the show was dropped by a strong station (KUTV-Ch. 2) and picked up by a weak one (KJZZ-Ch. 14).

It's all because of weakening ratings, of course, and this trend just makes the ratings weaker still.

The producers of the show are still hoping to get back into New York. But this may be Phil's last season on the air.

And it's certainly ironic - if not amusing - that the man who pioneered the exploitation of daytime TV talk could be killed off by his imitators, many of whom carried the idea to extremes.

And, whether he likes it or not, Donahue's television legacy will be that he started us down the road to the current trash-filled daytime schedules with wall-to-wall sleaze on those imitators.