Frog bumps its pricey ‘Baby’

Successful comedy slate pushes skein to shelf

The WB is no longer feeling the blues — “Baby Blues,” that is.

Frog has decided to shelve the entire 13-episode second season of the animated laffer as well as six segs held over from the skein’s first season — even though all 19 episodes of the series have been produced and paid for, at a cost of more than $15 million.

WB execs moved to kill “Baby” following a successful 2001-02 comedy development slate, which resulted in five new live-action, adult-oriented half-hours being added to the net’s fall lineup. With no other toon comedies in the Frog hopper — and no other compatible shows in the offing — “Baby” quickly became an orphan.

What’s more, the WB took advantage of accounting rules related to the merger of parent Time Warner with AOL that made shelving the series a more attractive financial option than simply burning off the episodes in the summer, according to insiders. The reason: The Frog was able to prove that “Baby” no longer fit into the net’s long-term strategic plans.

TNT in same situation

Indeed, WB sister net TNT killed original drama “Breaking News” last spring, deciding not to air the 13 episodes of the skein already produced (Daily Variety, May 23.)

Net execs at the time said the show no longer fit where the net was headed, but it’s also believed TNT likewise may be able to take advantage of the merger accounting rules to reduce (or eliminate) the financial impact of killing the show.

Even without the merger, it now seems unlikely “Baby” would have had much of a future on the WB.

After a five-year development process, series generated OK ratings when the WB aired six episodes in July 2000. However, WB execs believed in the series creatively and also were looking for backup programming in the event of a writers’ strike; as a result the net ordered a second season of 13 episodes (Daily Variety, Sept. 13.)

But the strike threat fizzled, and the WB’s comedy development slate turned out particularly strong. Since previous attempts at toon laffers — “Mission Hill,” “The Oblongs” and Fox import “The PJs”– failed to find success, and there was no real need for or companion to “Baby,” WB execs decided to “cut the cord,” as one exec said.

‘Difficult decision’

And so, earlier this summer, Frog heads quietly shelved “Baby,” which was exec produced by Jeff Martin and Peter Ocko for Warner Bros. Television.

“It was a very difficult decision to make,” said WB Entertainment prexy Jordan Levin. “Jeff and Peter did a wonderful job bringing it to life … But from a business and scheduling standpoint, it becomes very difficult to program animation when it doesn’t have the potential to break out like ‘The Simpsons.’ ”

The WB and Warner Bros. did find a way to utilize the talents of Martin: He’s an exec producer of “Maybe It’s Me,” considered one of the Frog’s hottest fall comedy prospects.

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