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‘Desperate’ answers coming

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Now that "Desperate Housewives" has premiered to boffo ratings — it was No. 1 last week — there are a lot of people out there asking, "What next?"

According to A.C. Nielsen, there are at least 21,645,000 viewers who want to know what the big secret is. Why Mary Alice killed herself. What her husband is doing digging up the pool in the back yard. Who Mike really is. And whether Susan is going to get away with (accidentally) burning down Edie's house.

I don't know the answer to any of those questions, but I do have it on good authority that this is not going to be an unending mystery dragged out until we're all sick to death of it.

"I'm not going to taunt people for years and years and years and never give them answers," said creator/writer/executive producer Marc Cherry. "I want some kind of satisfaction to be built, too. . . . The way I have it planned, we're going to be building some big reveals at the end of season one."

However, even when we get the answers to the current questions, that doesn't mean there won't be new questions waiting for their own answers. "I've also laid in a couple of other mysteries that then will come up right as the big stuff is being done," Cherry said. "So I think we've got enough juice to keep us going on that for a while."

I certainly hope so.

KNOCKED OUT: Despite all the free publicity that came when Fox stole NBC's idea for a boxing reality show, Fox couldn't make "The Next Great Champ" into a winner.

After four low-rated outings on the network, Oscar de la Hoya got KO'd again. Fox has shuttled the show over to Fox Sports Net, which will repeat on Sunday the four already-aired episodes and begin airing the remaining installments on Sunday, Oct. 17.

Excuse me a moment while I burst out laughing.

Sorry, but this is pretty funny. All this fussin' and feudin' and fightin' — and all this coverage from dummies like me — and "The Next Great Champ" is a total bomb in the ratings.

Whether this is good news or bad news for NBC and "The Contender" remains to be seen. No, NBC's reality/boxing show won't have to compete with Fox's reality/boxing show. But, on the other hand, Fox's boxing show would seem to indicate that Americans aren't all that interested in a reality/boxing show.

Perhaps to put some distance between "The Contender" and the stench left by "Next Great Champ," NBC has announced that it won't premiere its show until January. (It had been scheduled to debut in November.) But whether it will air on Tuesdays, as previously announced, seems doubtful — it would have to go up against "American Idol" on Fox.

And, frankly, "Idol" is where all this fussin' and feudin' and fightin' began. NBC was hoping to launch "The Contender" in November and build momentum going into January, when it would (NBC execs hoped) be able to put a dent in "American Idol's" enormous ratings.

Fox fired back by stealing the idea and rushing its boxing show on the air first.

Once again, sometimes what networks do off the air is so much more interesting than what they put on the air.

LATE-NIGHT SKIRMISH: Forget Letterman vs. Leno. How about the battle between Kimmel and Carolla?

Jimmy Kimmel is, of course, the host of his own late-night talk show on ABC. For three days this week (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), Adam Carolla is guest-hosting CBS's "Late Late Show." And in most TV markets, including this one, the two hourlong shows overlap by 30 minutes.

Kimmel and Carolla co-hosted "The Man Show" on Comedy Central from 1999-2003.

Kimmel made a guest appearance of sorts on Wednesday's "Late Late Show" — he was seen in taped bits sticking pins and so on in a Adam Carolla voodoo doll.

He needn't have bothered. If CBS can't find someone better to host the show than Carolla, it shouldn't even bother trying. He was dreadful.

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com