PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ ABC's ``Ellen'' is ready to ``come out.'' It's another question, however, whether ABC is ready to let her.

ABC Entertainment President Jamie Tarses said Thursday that an episode of the sitcom is in the works that reveals Ellen Degeneres' character is a lesbian. But, she said, it's ``wait-and-see'' whether the episode will air.

``We are very seriously considering about going in the direction that everyone's speculating on,'' she told reporters at the semiannual Television Critics Association meeting.

Speculation began at the start of the fall season when it was leaked that her quirky character, Ellen Morgan, may come out as a lesbian. ``Ellen'' is produced by Disney, which owns ABC, but Ms. Tarses said that won't be a factor.

``We are all taking this pretty seriously and if we're going to do it, we need to do it well,'' Ms. Tarses said.

The decision to air the episode, Ms. Tarses said, would be made by several people, including herself. She said discussions would be held to determine what direction the show would evolve once the character comes out.

In any case, nothing will happen immediately. ``Ellen'' will go off the air in March and April so its 9:30 p.m. Wednesday slot can showcase the as-yet-untitled romantic sitcom starring Arsenio Hall on March 5.

``Ellen'' will return for the May sweeps, but Ms. Tarses said she didn't know whether the lesbian episode would air then.

In other programming news, Tarses said ``The Wonderful World of Disney,'' with host Michael Eisner, returns next fall with two-hour shows at 7 p.m. on Sundays.

``Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman'' probably would be moved to another night.

During the crucial February sweeps, ABC will use Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights to air movies, temporarily displacing such low-rated shows as ``Relativity'' and ``Lois & Clark.''

The Steven Bochco legal drama ``Murder One'' will leave the weekly primetime schedule Jan. 23, returning as a three-part, six-hour miniseries airing April 13, April 14 and April 17.

Tarses also announced premiere dates for ABC's midseason replacements:

_ ``Vital Signs,'' a one-hour reality-based medical series will premiere Feb. 27 at 9 p.m.

_ ``The Practice,'' a one-hour law drama from writer-producer David E. Kelley (``Picket Fences'' and ``Chicago Hope'') will debut March 4 at 10 p.m., taking the ``NYPD Blue'' time slot. The show stars Dylan McDermott as an atypical attorney in a small Boston law firm.

Like ``Ellen,'' ``NYPD Blue'' will return to the schedule during the May sweeps.

Midseason series with no airdates include:

_ ``Father's Day,'' a spinoff of ``Home Improvement,'' about a widowed minister raising three children by himself.

_ ``Leaving LA,'' a one-hour drama about the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

_ ``Spy Game,'' a one-hour espionage drama starring Bruce McCarty, Allison Smith and Linden Ashby.

_ ``Gun,'' a one-hour series that follows a high-caliber, semiautomatic pistol as it moves from one situation to another each week.