The Frog will leap ahead of the other nets in rolling out its fall sked, while ABC will stick to a fairly conventional premiere-week game plan.
Both broadcasters announced premiere dates for the 2003-04 season Tuesday, making them the last of the Big Six to confirm rollout skeds.
That’s not to say there might not still be some surprises: With the ratings race as tight as it’s been in years, many are predicting some last-minute shuffles before the onslaught of fresh fare begins.
As for what was announced Tuesday, ABC execs seem to have opted against repeating a strategy that worked well for the net last year — i.e., premiering some of its laffers a week before the season’s official start on Sept. 22.
Instead, ABC will give an early start to its new Thursday lineup, bowing 8 p.m. drama “Threat Matrix” and returning reality skein “Extreme Makeover” on Sept. 18. “Primetime Live” has its official season premiere Sept. 11 at 10 p.m.
The downside to the Thursday strategy: “Threat” now will air opposite the season premiere of CBS’ “Survivor.” On the other hand, skein gets a one-week jump on the final season premiere of “Friends.”
Unscripted fare such as “Primetime Monday,” “20/20” and “Monday Night Football” also will launch early.
The rest of ABC’s lineup will bow largely during premiere week, with a couple of exceptions. In order to make room for special expanded premieres of “According to Jim,” “My Wife and Kids,” “George Lopez” and “The Bachelor,” four skeins will bow the week of Sept. 29: “Less than Perfect” (Sept. 30); “It’s All Relative” and “Karen Sisco” (Oct. 1); and “Married to the Kellys” (Oct. 3.)
Raring to go
In contrast to ABC, the WB can’t wait to get its new programming up and running.
Net will air the season premiere of Friday laffer “Grounded for Life” Sept. 5 at 9 p.m., following it with another original seg.
And while news nets and other broadcasters will no doubt spend much of Sept. 11 marking the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America, the WB will go for laughs with the hourlong bow of “Steve Harvey’s Big Time,” “What I Like About You” and “Run of the House.”
“Reba” gets a one-hour bow Sept. 12, followed by the series bow of “All About the Andersons.” And on Sept. 14, the net airs two-hour spec “Play for a Billion,” the culmination of a summerlong promo contest geared to the WB’s fall launch.
Bowing Sept. 15 are “7th Heaven” and “Everwood,” with “Jamie Kennedy Experiment” returning for a third season Sept. 18. New laffer “Like Family” pops up Sept. 19.
“Gilmore Girls,” “One Tree Hill” and “Charmed” are the only Frog skeins bowing during premiere week. Three other skeins launch the week after: “Smallville” and “Angel” (Oct. 1); and “Tarzan” (Oct. 5.)