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Scott D. Pierce: 'Viva Laughlin' bites the dust

At least "Viva Laughlin" completely lived up to expectations. Well, it lived up to my expectations anyway.

Way back before the season began, yours truly wrote, "If not for the fact that 'Viva Laughlin' doesn't premiere until the second half of October, it would probably be the first show canceled this fall."

As it turns out, despite that late start it was the second show canceled this fall, trailing only The CW's "Online Nation" (which premiered four weeks earlier).

The only surprise here is that CBS bothered to put "Viva Laughlin" on the air at all. You'd have thought that, after seeing the pilot, network programmers would have run screaming from the room.

OK, the other surprise is that CBS spent so much time, effort and money promoting "Viva Laughlin," when anyone who had seen it, knew from the start that it was a lost cause. After airing the first episode on Thursday, Oct. 18, and the second on the following Sunday, the ax fell swiftly.

Again, the only people surprised by this swift and utter failure seem to be the people at CBS. More than three months before "Viva Laughlin" premiered, the producers of "Jericho" (which got a seven-episode, midseason replacement pickup from the network) were asked, "If the seven-episode arc works really well and CBS loses a show like, say, 'Viva Laughlin' in about two weeks, could you get back into production to do more episodes in time to put them on this season?"

There was general laughter throughout the room. From the TV critics, not from the CBS execs.

Turns out the "Jericho" question was moot — that show is not getting the Sunday-at-7 p.m. time slot.

Instead, a new season of "Amazing Race" is slated to begin on Sunday, Nov. 4.

I'm not sure it's such a good idea to run a 13-episode season of "Amazing Race" through the holidays, but it's certainly better than trying to get anyone to watch any more dreadful episodes of "Viva Laughlin."

CBS HAS NOT picked up "Cane" or "Moonlight" for a full season yet, but it hasn't canceled them, either. And it has given both programs half-hearted support by ordering additional scripts. The network has ponied up for four additional scripts of each series.

Nobody at CBS is asking my advice, obviously, but if they did, I'd tell them that "Cane" is worth sticking with and "Moonlight" is not.

There's a similar situation over at NBC, which has ordered three additional scripts (but, as yet, not additional episodes) of four freshman series — "Bionic Woman," "Chuck," "Journeyman" and "Life."

My advice — keep "Chuck" around; take a look at those "Bionic Woman" scripts because the show already looks in danger of running out of ideas; and don't bother with the other two.

This sort of thing happens every season at every network when executives aren't quite sure whether new shows are going to make it.

But there is one big difference this year. The Writers Guild's contract expires at the end of the month, and unless there's a quick agreement — which doesn't appear all that likely — no writers will be working on any TV series for a while.

That's a whole 'nother story, and it's a whole lot more scary than the vampires on "Moonlight."