ABC has announced that it will be bringing its struggling fall The Benefactor reality series to an early end, but, perhaps being mindful of the criticism that NBC took last week when it decided to pull its Last Comic Standing series off the air with only one episode remaining, the network won't suddenly yank the series off the air midway through its run -- instead the originally planned eight-episode series will be truncated to six episodes.

The final straw for The Benefactor appears to have been the performance of this week's Christopher Reeve: A Tribute to Courage special. Despite airing on extremely short notice (news of Reeve's death only hit the wires late Sunday evening) the special delivered an audience more than twice the size of The Benefactor's average when it aired in the place of The Benefactor's fifth episode on Monday evening.

The Benefactor's fifth episode will now air on Monday, October 18 in the program's normal time period -- a timeslot that varies depending on time zone and is believed to have contributed to the show's ratings struggles (while the program airs at 8PM on the east coast, viewers in the western half of the country don't see the show until after ABC's Monday Night Football broadcast ends, which means the program has lacked a consistent start time.) During the broadcast Mark Cuban will eliminate one of the program's five finalists within the first ten minutes and then give the contest's remaining foursome 48 hours to perform random acts of kindness for the people of Dallas.

The following week, October 25, ABC will air a one-hour broadcast of what its calling the show's "sixth episode" in the same time period. However, based on the network's press releases and previous listing information it appears that the broadcast will actually contain a massively edited combination of footage from what was originally intended to comprise the sixth, seventh, and eighth episodes of the series. During the episode Mark will undertake Bachelor-like visits to the hometowns of each of his remaining finalists where he will meet their family and friends and narrow the competition to only two contestants. Afterward, the two finalists will be given 60 seconds to explain why Cuban should pick them to win the million dollars, and he will announce his winner.

The scheduling changes will result in ABC begin able to get The Benefactor off its schedule before the all-important November ratings sweeps period begins. A behind-the-scenes Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - How'd They Do That? special will fill The Benefactor's Monday night spot on November 1 followed by a Robin Leach-hosted Life Of Luxury special on November 8.