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Skeins may skid to rivals

Fox's 'Family Guy' may move over to UPN

With an unusual number of high-profile but low-rated primetime TV series on life support this season, studios find themselves aggressively hunting for a few miracles.

The latest example: Fox’s “Family Guy,” which may be resurrected next season at a new address.

20th Century Fox Television, which produces the animated skein, is in early talks with UPN about moving the irreverent toon from Fox Broadcasting Co. to the Viacom-owned weblet. UPN execs have expressed interest in the show, though its relatively high pricetag may be a stumbling block.

While FBC hasn’t yet axed “Family Guy,” the show has struggled to find an aud on Fox and is considered at best a long shot for renewal there. Toon has consistently done well with young men 18-34, however — making it a perfect fit for the testosterone-soaked UPN sked.

Netlet might pair “Family Guy” with “Gary & Mike,” a claymation-style laffer that had been expected to bow on Fox this summer but now is likely to end up at UPN. Industry insiders said UPN is close to a deal to pick up the six segs of “Gary & Mike” produced for Fox while also ordering additional episodes of the skein.

“Gary & Mike” comes from Big Ticket, a relatively small production unit of UPN parent Viacom, making the deal all the more attractive to both companies. Fox, already overloaded with animated fare, appears more than happy to part with a show that may be too narrowly targeted to work on its web.

As for “Family Guy,” the animated show bowed in midseason last year in the post-“Simpsons” timeslot to strong numbers but wildly mixed reviews. The laff-a-second format succeeded with young male “Simpsons” followers. But some crix were appalled by the show’s edgy humor, especially an infamous scene where the head of a John F. Kennedy Pez dispenser is shot off.

Fox yanked the show after two episodes last fall but relaunched it in March. After six airings, “Family Guy” has still only eked out an average 3.2 rating in the demo.

“Family Guy” and “Gary & Mike” aren’t the only struggling skeins trying to stave off the Grim Reaper.

Imagine Television, which produces the critically worshipped half-hour “SportsNight,” has been feverishly lining up potential bidders for the Aaron Sorkin-led show should ABC opt against bringing it back. HBO execs are said to be interested in a plan to reinvent “SportsNight” for the pay cabler: The same cast and characters would return, but the show would essentially be crafted anew as an HBO series.

Another Imagine show on the bubble, “The PJs,” is on deck to move to the WB. Frog net has an option to pick up the show as early as next month, though a strong development slate might make the WB less inclined to order “The PJs.”

WB has already snagged one of the biggest prizes of this bubble season, striking a deal with Viacom Prods. for “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.”

ABC’s soph sitcom “The Hughleys” is also said to be on the market, with both UPN, and to a lesser degree, the WB, considered potential bidders.

NBC has already given DreamWorks permission to find a new school for “Freaks and Geeks.” ABC and Fox had expressed interest in the show, although insiders said the chance of either web picking it up is now slim. MTV execs also like the show, but its high production cost may prevent a deal.

One show unlikely to get a second chance elsewhere: the WB’s “D.C.”

Hourlong drama about young interns, from Studios USA and exec producer Dick Wolf, has been put on indefinite broadcast hiatus, effective immediately. Frog net will temporarily fill the 8 p.m. Sunday slot with repeats of “Charmed.”

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