Levin vertically integrates sked
With its most synergistically minded sked yet, the WB will add a quartet of comedies and a pair of dramas to its primetime lineup this fall — all from sister studio Warner Bros. TV.Additions, to be announced today at the WB’s upfront presentation, are part of an ambitious scheduling play that calls for changes on five of the six nights the Frog programs. Highlights include revamped comedy blocks on Thursday and Friday nights and the move of Frog hit “Smallville” to Wednesday nights, where it will lead into the returning “Angel” (Daily Variety, May 12). Replacing “Smallville” will be the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced actioner “Fearless,” a move that creates a femme-focused Tuesday. Net also is making a bold move on Sundays by scheduling one of its most buzzworthy newcomers — “Tarzan and Jane” — Sundays at 9 p.m. First-season repeats of “Smallville” lead off Sunday, with “Charmed” remaining at 8 p.m. The Frog’s reliance on WBTV for all of its new product is likely to raise eyebrows. WB Entertainment prexy Jordan Levin made no apologies for the vertically integrated bent of his sked. “I know it sounds completely disingenuous, but we picked the best shows we had,” he said. Given that the bulk of the Frog’s pilots were produced by WBTV, it was all but a given that the net’s fall lineup would be heavy on inhouse fare. “We were aware this would happen,” Levin said. Inside laughs The WB’s four new laffers all originated with the net’s comedy development team. Frog has a tradition of nurturing shows inhouse before laying them off on studios. This year, the net placed those projects at WBTV. “In this economic environment, I have no shame putting our internal development over at Warner Bros.,” Levin said. “They’re the most supportive in terms of deficit-financing, and they’re also creatively supportive.” Synergy worked both ways: Frog’s two frosh dramas originated with WBTV producers and the studio’s development team. Levin said WBTV prexy Peter Roth also deserves credit for creating an environment that makes vertical integration a natural. “Peter’s a throwback to an old era where studio chiefs were passionately supportive of their producers. He’s a strong advocate for the WB, while also creating shows for other networks.” As for the specifics of the sked, Frog made some interesting choices on its two comedy nights. ‘Reba’ spark? Established success “Reba” will kick off Friday nights rather than anchor at 9 — a bit of a risk given that the Frog’s Friday is working pretty well. Still, execs believe returning laffer “Grounded for Life” will work in “Reba’s” old slot. Thursdays will kick off with a reality/variety block, leading into a young-female-targeted 9-10 p.m. block of comedies. Laffers not returning for second seasons include “Greetings From Tucson,” “Do Over,” “Family Affair” and “On the Spot”; long-delayed “The O’Keefes” debuts this month but likely won’t be back. Dramas on the outs include “Birds of Prey” and “The Black Sash”; “Dawson’s Creek” ends its storied run next week.