"Ally McBeal" Rocks, "Susan" Rolled

Ally's up, Sarah's down and Susan is out for now.

Single women living, loving and working in big cities are a staple of network programming, but not all are bringing home the bacon.

Monday night Fox got good news and bad news about their favorite femmes. The bad news: Time of Your Life, which has moved Party of Five alumna Jennifer Love Hewitt to the Big Apple, had a limp debut in the old Melrose Place slot. The good news: The new season of the sex-obsessed Ally McBeal brought the beleaguered network a surge in viewers at 9 p.m., and an impressive time slot victory against stiff competition from ABC football, successful CBS sitcoms and NBC's newly popular Law & Order: SVU.

Meanwhile, another Monday night show, NBC's Suddenly Susan, has been put on the shelf for the upcoming November sweeps (when the networks strive to achieve top ratings to attract advertisers). Also being shelved for the rest of the year: CBS' Love & Money, the Friday sitcom about a New York heiress wooed by her building super.

Suddenly Susan, starring Brooke Shields as a San Francisco magazine writer, has continued to nosedive in its fourth season, despite efforts to jazz up the show with new cast members like Monty Python vet Eric Idle and Melrose Place pretty boy Rob Estes. In the advertiser-friendly 18-49 demo, Susan's numbers are down 44 percent from last year to a woeful 2.9 rating. That's even worse than the 3.5 rating for its Monday night companion Veronica's Closet--which surprisingly will remain on during sweeps.

Susan got some time off this Monday when NBC subbed a Friends rerun to sabotage the debut of Time of Your Life. Friends repeats will hold down the slot for the last three weeks of sweeps, but the first week, November 8, NBC will air the second half of the special effects-laden miniseries The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns. The Peacock insists Shields' show will return to the regular lineup December 6.

CBS is also insisting that Love & Money, which averaged a mere 2.4 rating among adults 18-49 after three episodes, will be back in January, probably following Cosby in the Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. slot vacated by the just-canceled Work with Me. During sweeps the now-vacant Friday, 8:30 p.m. slot will be given over to Candid Camera.

Fox had struggled with Time of Your Life even before it went on the air, having problems figuring out how to "reinvent" the suddenly alone Sarah Merrin (Hewitt). Just 7.9 million viewers tuned in to watch--less than half those who ogled the new Ally McBeal episode which followed, and down 24 percent from Melrose Place's ratings in the same period last year.

Nearly 16 million viewers tuned in to see Ally have sex in a car wash and ruin a wedding. Those numbers are up 10 percent over last year's opener, and trounced ABC's Monday Night Football.