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    "Witchblade" Sliced by TNT

    TNT has severed Witchblade from its schedule.

    In a surprise move, the cable network has decided to axe its supernatural drama starring Yancy Butler, Daily Variety reports. This despite the series significantly improving TNT's Tuesday night ratings.

    Based on the Top Cow comic book of the same name, Witchblade follows a tough New York City detective who takes on fantastic powers after coming into contact with an ancient weapon. She then uses the blade to battle evil.

    TNT's decision to shutter the series at the end of its second season seems more bizarre than the show's plotlines. Witchblade has done well for the network, averaging a solid 2.0 cable rating since debuting in 2000 as a two-hour original movie.

    But TNT executive vice president and general manager, Steve Koonin, indicated the network has its reasons.

    "It's a very tough decision," Koonin told Variety. "We just felt to stretch it to a third year could hurt [the show's creativity and ratings]." He says he wanted the show to end strongly.

    Show insiders and fans alike aren't buying Koonin's line, especially considering Witchblade was one of the only solid performers for a network whose other recent attempts at original programming--like the now defunct Bull and Breaking News--failed to draw eyeballs to the network.

    Instead, they insist, the real reason behind Witchblade's shuttering had to do with Butler's sobriety issues.

    In May, production was shut down in Toronto as the actress voluntarily checked herself into a clinic for treatment of alcohol abuse. Only six episodes were in the can at the time.

    After a month-long stint in rehab, Butler returned to the set in June and the show resumed shooting the remainder of its 13 episodes. It premiered as scheduled on June 16 to good ratings.

    At the time of Butler's treatment, there were trade reports claiming producers were considering how to replace the popular actress and keep the show viable.

    The 32-year-old actress' manager did not return phone calls seeking comment on the cancellation.

    In a thread on the rec.arts.tv newsgroup lamenting the show's cancellation, a person calling himself "3finger" summarizes fans' feelings, saying TNT's move was "mind-boggling."

    "It has to be totally about Butler's alcohol problems," 3finger continues. "There's just no other justification for it. And I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this story."

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