FRANK SWERTLOW

Once the hype and ballyhoo subsides over George Clooney's departure from NBC's "ER," how will prime time's No. 1 drama be affected by the loss of TV's leading leading man?

"There might be some small slippage in the ratings, but the ensemble cast is well established," said Bill Croasdale, an ad buyer at Western Initiative Media. "The show will go on."

Pam McNeely, a time buyer at Dailey & Associates, said Clooney's departure might actually boost the show's ratings. ABC's "NYPD Blue" has been successful with the addition of Rick Schroder, who replaced Jimmy Smits earlier this year. Another show that has benefited by cast changes is NBC's "Law & Order."

Clooney, who plays a pediatrician in the medical drama, quit the series to become a producer and to star in films. The actor is writing and producing a sitcom, "Kilroy" for HBO. His last film, "Out of Sight" was a box-office disappointment but has received solid reviews.

"ER" most recently scored a 20.3 rating. Last season, "ER" drew a 21.2 rating with 35.5 million viewers tuning in each week. So far this season, "ER" is down 12 percent from last year.

A recent spike in the ratings is being attributed to the final episodes that are hyping Clooney's departure. NBC's prime-time ratings this season have fallen 12 percent, according to a network spokesman.

Roseanne may have been the queen of prime time, but as a talk show host she's fading. WNBC in New York, the network's flagship in the East, has pushed her out of a coveted afternoon slot and bumped it to a weaker morning berth. The group of stations owned and operated by NBC was one of the first to sign up the show for a two-year deal. Stations in San Antonio and Indianapolis recently moved her to weak post-midnight slots.

"Roseanne" debuted last September with a 2.1 rating, but has dipped below that level. In the most recent Nielsen Media Research survey of syndicated shows, the program averaged a 1.7 rating.

In Los Angeles, a KNBC-TV Channel 4 spokeswoman said there are no plans to move the program, which is currently aired at 10 a.m.

"Roseanne" isn't the only talk show in trouble. Paramount's "Howie Mandel Show" is also sliding fast. Insiders said the plug has already been pulled to drop the chatter for next season.

Former New York Post Editor Jerry Nachman is expected to be named the new host of KCET-TV Channel 28's daily public affairs show, "Life and Times." Nachman is a former news director of WNBC in New York. He would replace the departed Yolanda Nava.

Tired of all those syndicated pre-Oscar shows in which dopey TV entertainment reporters ask the stars inane questions? So is the movie academy. ABC will be offering "Sunday at the Oscars," a half-hour pre-show with Oscar-winner Geena Davis as host. "We wanted to be in control of this kind of material, of this kind of programming," said Robert Rehme, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "It seemed foolish that we shouldn't do it." Oscar producer Gilbert Cates will also produce the pre-show special.

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