This is how it’s done in “The OC”: Fox has given the Warner Bros. TV-produced skein from creator Josh Schwartz the OK for a full season’s worth of episodes, cementing its status as the first hit of the fall season.
Net has ordered nine additional episodes of the teen-targeted sudser, bringing the net’s total episodic commitment to the project to 22. Skein — which bowed last month to decent ratings and has added young viewers virtually every week since — ranks No. 1 in its 9 p.m. Tuesday slot in most key demos.
Schwartz created and serves as showrunner of the skein, with Doug Liman, McG, Dave Bartis and Bob DeLaurentis on board as exec producers.
Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman said the early success of “The OC,” including the decision to greenlight the back nine even before the start of the official fall season, is proof that the network’s year-round programming strategy is bearing fruit.
As part of that strategy, Berman Tuesday confirmed that Fox has given the official pilot go-ahead and ordered additional scripts for “Why Blitt,” a half-hour laffer from scribes Ricky Blitt and Peter Farrelly (Daily Variety, June 16). Blitt has been approved to star in the 20th Century Fox TV project, which is being developed for midseason or summer.
Fox also has ordered an hourlong legal drama from Tom Fontana and James Yoshimura that could be ready for midseason as well (Daily Variety, Sept. 9).
“The year-round programming model is something that’s on the front burner for us,” Berman said, noting the strong start for “The OC”– and the emergence of “Paradise Hotel” as a new summer reality franchise — are key in making that strategy work.
“What we did is take a chance and change the paradigm,” Berman said. “We attempted to get a headstart, and we said that if we came out of the summer with a hit drama, and a reality franchise we could bring back next summer like ‘Big Brother,’ it would be a big win for us. And that’s what we’ve done.”
Berman called “The OC’s” success “the biggest story of the summer” since it disproved naysayers on two points — namely, that the serialized teen drama was dead and that scripted skeins don’t work in the summer.
Exec lauded Schwartz, the show’s other exec producers and WBTV prexy Peter Roth for delivering a skein she said “has struck a nerve” with auds.
“These guys have delivered an unbelievably good drama with a very fast turnaround,” she said. “People were saying this form was over, yet this is a show that feels authentic to younger viewers yet also plays with adults.”
Fox still faces a tough task with “The OC,” however.
Even as the show’s stars are popping up all over magazines and the skein’s plotlines are becoming pop culture touchpoints, skein will go off the air for six weeks following next Tuesday’s “summer finale.” Currently, the show is skedded to return Oct. 30 in a new Thursday timeslot opposite “CSI” and “Will &Grace.”
To help lure back viewers in October, next week’s episode will end with a cliffhanger designed to keep Internet chatrooms buzzing.
Industry insiders already are speculating that Fox might consider bringing back “The OC” on a night other than Thursday — Wednesday is often mentioned — but Berman dismisses such talk, for now.
“We have no plans to change our schedule at this time,” she said. “We’re going to review everything that happens as the fall season rolls out. We’ll take it day by day.”