ABC may go ‘Downtown’ again in May

'Millionaire' lead-in helps newsmag

NEW YORK — ABC News is preparing for a busy summer.

Contrary to published reports that the network is canceling “20/20 Downtown,” ABC News plans to bring back the younger-skewing newsmagazine sometime in May, sources said Wednesday.

With help from a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” lead-in, “20/20 Downtown”‘s ratings have improved in recent weeks.

But, according to ABC News president David Westin, the fate of “20/20 Downtown” still hasn’t been decided. “I think from the beginning it’s been an important experiment,” Westin said. “It has a reasonable chance of returning.”

Following the six-episode run of the Touchstone/Imagine hospital drama “Wonderland” in the Thursdays at 10 p.m. slot, ABC could bring back “20/20 Downtown” sometime in May. In July, the net will likely use the spot — opposite “ER” — to debut its new one-hour medical series “24/7.”

ABC News has ordered a limited number of episodes of “24/7,” which will tape at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. “It’s not going to be a traditional newsmagazine format. This is going to be a very substantive, serious approach to the real world of hospital medicine told from the point of view of doctors and patients,” Westin said.

Last summer, ABC News premiered two new series: “Vanished,” which focused on missing people, and “Brave New World,” an avant-garde take on the newsmag format. Westin said there is still a possibility that both series could return at some point.

There is also a chance that the Wednesday edition of “20/20” could change to “20/20 Primetime” in order to set it apart from other editions of the newsmag. Before consolidation in the 1998-1999 season, Wednesday night’s newsmag was known as “PrimeTime Live.” Sources at ABC say that there is little chance that that moniker will be revived.

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