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TNT chops ‘Blade’

Cabler yanks drama despite strong ratings

“Witchblade” has been cut.

The signature TNT drama series — which went on temporary hiatus this year while series star Yancy Butler underwent alcohol rehab — did not snag a renewal, the cable network confirmed Tuesday.

The show wrapped its second season last month.

“Witchblade” has been considered a success on many levels, including in the ratings, so the cancellation is likely to raise a few eyebrows in TV land.

The series consistently drew at least a 2.0 cable rating in TNT’s universe during both its first and second seasons. Perf certainly is considered a healthy one, although some summer cable series, such as USA’s “Monk,” have been turning in even higher cable ratings.

What’s more, “Witchblade” fits with TNT’s branding “We know drama.” It got the full promotional push from TNT, and the network often touted the fact that there’s nothing like the series on broadcast television.

Steve Koonin, TNT’s exec VP-general manager, said the decision was made in the hopes of going out with a bang.

“It’s a very tough decision,” Koonin told Daily Variety. “Our criteria for this show was really four-fold,” he said.

The four hopes for the show were that it be: advertiser- and cable operator-friendly, a show that differentiated the network from its competitors, a ratings builder, and a show that laid groundwork for the net to be in the summer series biz.

” ‘Witchblade’ did all of that great for two years,” Koonin said. “We just felt to stretch it to a third year could hurt some of those areas.”

However, insiders said the production stumbles related to Butler’s health during lensing on the most recent season may have played a part (Daily Variety, June 11).

Warner Bros. Television, which produces the show with Top Cow Prods. and Halsted Pictures, declined to comment. Butler’s manager also was mum.

TNT has had a tricky time launching scripted series in recent years, most notably “Breaking News,” which the network wrote off before airing any episodes, and “Bull,” which was canceled early in its run.

Still, Koonin said the network will continue to be in the series biz. It likely will continue to utilize the same model it did with “Witchblade,” which preemed first as a two-hour movie.

“We’ll be evolving our identity as a leader in drama and looking for other shows,” Koonin said.

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