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December 22, 2008

TV shows in limbo: 'Gladiators,' 'Truth,' 'EliteXC'...

Most TV shows exit the airwaves with a flurry of headlines memorializing their demise. Sometimes, though, a program fades from the spotlight into a scheduling twilight zone: neither declared dead nor returning.

Here's the lowdown on some missing-in-action titles from this year that most expected to see again but which have no airdates on the horizon:

NBC's "American Gladiators." Gladiators ready? No, gladiators are not ready. This competition-series revival enjoyed terrific ratings for its initial run during the WGA strike early this year. A second season launched in May and saw a sharp drop in viewers, with ratings fading throughout its summer run. Most consider reality shows cheap to produce, but this stunt-heavy arena competition is not. NBC has not mentioned "Gladiators" on the record, but it's considered canceled.

Fox's "The Moment of Truth." Another strike-era reality hit, this, too, saw a ratings decline during its summer run. Unlike "Gladiators," though, "Truth" isn't very expensive, and Fox has shot unaired episodes for a new season. Given the troubled economy and the show's controversial content, sources said garnering advertiser support hasn't been easy (another reason Fox hopes the cheerfully altruistic "Secret Millionaire" breaks out). No airdate is planned for "Truth," but with episodes in the can, a summer run might be tempting.

CBS' "EliteXC Saturday Night Fights." 

CBS planned four experimental off-brand specials and aired three, two of which performed well among younger demographics. With EliteXC declaring bankruptcy in October, though, the fourth special is not happening. CBS could align with another mixed-martial-arts partner but has not found or sought one. The network is doing fine with scripted shows, so it's in no rush to jump back in the octagon.

ABC's "Opportunity Knocks." This game show debuted in the fall and quickly was yanked from the schedule. ABC's insistence that the program might come back was presumed by the media to be spin to avoid cancellation so early in the season. But here we are, months later, and ABC still says "Opportunity" will knock again. The network plans to run off the remaining six episodes in the summer.

Fox's " 'Til Death" and ABC's "According to Jim." Both are modestly rated, critically indifferent sitcoms that fill schedule holes when needed. "Death" is off the air, but a midseason appearance is likely. "Jim" will leave the air shortly, and ABC plans to air its remaining 12 episodes in the summer unless called into action earlier.

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