To say that there are a lot of people out there angry that CBS canceled "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" would be an understatement. The network has received more than 100,000 phone calls, letters, e-mails and faxes protesting the decision.

"I got more letters on that show than on all the rest of the shows I've canceled combined," said CBS Television President and CEO Leslie Moonves.Series star Jane Seymour is still notedly unhappy about the cancellation and misses no opportunity to convey that unhappiness.

"Since it was canceled, the outpouring from the fans has been just unbelievable," she said. "Wherever I've gone, people came with mounds and mounds of faxes and e-mails and people said there was a void in their lives."

Not that the outpouring of support has reversed Moonves' decision. He has once again publicly and forcefully stated his position - that the cancellation stands. "Dr. Quinn" fans will have to settle for the apology of sorts that he issued.

"Needless to say, it was a very difficult decision to cancel `Dr. Quinn,' " he said. "The show served CBS very well for six years, and we are very appreciative and respectful of what Jane Seymour and (executive producer) Beth Sullivan and all the people that worked very hard on `Dr. Quinn' contributed to this network.

"Unfortunately, it was a decision we had to make. Viewership levels were going in the wrong direction. Ratings had declined for five consecutive years. And we need to maintain our leadership position on Saturday night."

To understand why CBS canceled the show is to understand how broadcast network television works. CBS survives off advertising, and the network has to sell what the advertisers want to buy.

The real problem with "Dr. Quinn" was not how many people were watching it but who those people were. The show tended to win its Saturday-night timeslot in the household ratings, but advertising is no longer sold on the basis of how many households tune in to a show. In the all-important (to advertisers) 18-49 demographic, it was finishing fourth "by a longshot," according to Moonves.

"It was getting creamed. And, unfortunately, the rates we were getting for that show were very low," he said. "And you can't afford to do that with a fifth- or sixth-year show."

While rivals at other networks say Moonves is right, Seymour made it clear she doesn't quite believe all that talk about demographics, however.

"I've been having 16- to 21-year-olds coming to me all around the world saying, " `Dr. Quinn' is our favorite show,' she said. "And I have parents saying, `What are we going to do? When are we going to have something like this? Can we have it back?' "

Moonves, on the other hand, argues that he has not turned his back on viewers who are looking for the kind of entertainment that "Dr. Quinn" brought to TV.

"This does not mean we're abandoning our loyal, core audience," Moonves insisted. "CBS continues to serve our female viewers and our rural audience better than any other network. Let us not forget we still have `Touched by an Angel,' `Promised Land,' `The Magnificent Seven,' `Early Edition' and our Sunday movie franchise."

He might also have mentioned "Diagnosis Murder," which appeals to older viewers, and "Everybody Loves Raymond," one of the few family-oriented sitcoms on network television. And the fact is that Moonves is right - about the only network show that's in the same vein as "Dr. Quinn" that's not on CBS is the WB's "7th Heaven."

The CBS executive is rather sensitive to the criticism he has received about the cancellation and the fact that the new show on CBS's Saturday-night schedule this fall is "Martial Law," a comedic action hour that features Hong Kong martial arts star Sammo Hung in the lead role.

" `Martial Law' did not replace `Dr. Quinn.' `Early Edition' did," Moonves said.

(And, technically, he's right. "Early Edition" has moved from 8 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, the old "Dr. Quinn" time slot. "Martial Law" will air in the 8 p.m. time slot vacated by "Early Edition.")

" `Early Edition,' we feel, should have the same sort of appeal to the `Dr. Quinn' viewers that `Dr. Quinn' did. We feel it's a family show. It's a feel-good show," Moonves said. "Obviously, with `Martial Law' we're trying something different," he said. "We are trying to get more males on our network, and we felt it was a gamble worth taking."

Moonves also disputes reports that he axed "Dr. Quinn" because of some sort of personal dispute with Sullivan.

"Totally incorrect," he said. "As a matter of fact, Beth and I have had three or four conversations since the cancellation about new projects."

(And, even if it were true that Moonves and Sullivan don't get along, there are any number of network executives, producers, stars and writers who loathe each other but remain in business together because of the huge sums of money involved.)

Additionally, while "Dr. Quinn" was a 6-year-old show - and had seen steady declines in its ratings for the past four years - "Early Edition" is only a 2-year-old show that was thought to have more potential.

"Sure, that's part of it. You look for trends," Moonves said. "People ask, `Why did you pick up `Magnificent Seven' and not `Quinn'?' `Magnificent Seven' did only 14 episodes last year. We feel there's a bigger future there. `Quinn' had done six years and six very good years, but it was trending down."

Both Moonves and Seymour do agree that, at some point, the "Dr. Quinn" saga will continue - but not as a weekly series.

"I know that CBS has announced that, at some point, they wish to make a two-hour movie," Seymour said. "And I have announced that I would be very happy to make it, if and when I see (a script)."

"We are trying to do the movie," Moonves said. "It depends on Jane.

"And, by the way, it would not be a finale. We're leaving the door open to do a series of them, like we do with `Murder, She Wrote.' I have no problem doing two `Quinn' movies a year."