The Seinfeld curse strikes again: Jason Alexander's much-hyped, but little-seen ABC sitcom Bob Patterson has officially been dumped by the network after just five episodes.

The move follows a string of behind-the-scenes shakeups, retoolings and power plays that emasculated Bob Patterson's promising premise: the erstwhile George Costanza as a neurotic motivational speaker whose advice has created a self-help empire, but whose personal life is a mess.

The show itself could have used some motivation. The pilot was such a huge disappointment that one of the show's executive producers was forced out over those always pesky "creative differences" and the key role of Patterson's estranged wife was recast. Then the show's production company, 20th Century Fox Television, announced it was holding an open casting call to find a "funny and overweight 17-year-old" to play the newly created part of Alexander's TV son.

Despite the major overhaul, Bob Patterson premiered to mediocre Nielsens opposite NBC's hit Frasier. In an attempt to salvage its huge investment, ABC quickly shuffled the sitcom around the schedule but to no avail.

It is the second fall casualty for ABC, whose ratings have gone in the hopper this season. Last month, the network pulled the plug on another star-driven vehicle, Joan Cusack's What About Joan. Bob Patterson is also the fourth rookie show to be dropped this fall after CBS' Wolf Lake, Danny and Citizen Baines.

For those keeping score at home, Alexander has become the second Seinfeld alum to have a seemingly sure-thing show scuttled. In fact, the tortured life and quick death of Bob Patterson eerily mimicks the solo sitcom history of Alexander's former Seinfeld buddy Michael Richards.

Last year, the lanky goofball returned to NBC as a bumbling detective on The Michael Richards Show. The network was reportedly unhappy with the pilot, and the series underwent its own retooling, including the addition of Tim Meadows and William Devane to the cast.

The makeover didn't help much. The series was declared a stinker by critics and viewers alike, and NBC pulled the plug last December.

Now it's up to Julia Louis-Dreyfus to break the jinx with her new NBC effort, 23:12, which is slated to debut as a midseason replacement in early 2002.

But we aren't holding our breath: Earlier this week it was reported that NBC has wrested control of the show away from the people who developed it, Carsey Werner Mandabach. Gulp.

In fact, it may come down to the unlikeliest of heroes to break the Seinfeld suck streak: Patrick "Puddy" Warburton. He heads the cast for Fox's new and hysterically funny The Tick, which debuts November 8.

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