Thursday slot fatal for show

Ding, dong, “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” is dead.

The WB quietly said last week that the long-running Melissa Joan Hart comedy had conjured its last spell. The Frog hastily combined this season’s last two half-hour episodes and will air them as an hour-long series finale this Thursday.

The Viacom Prods./Hartbreak Films comedy was a staple of ABC’s “TGIF” lineup for four years, before moving to the WB in fall 2000. An additional three seasons were produced at the Frog, bringing the show’s grand total to seven seasons and 163 episodes.

Executive producer Paula Hart called the decision to wrap the show a “surprise.”

“We thought that we had established Friday night for the WB, and were attempting to establish Thursday night for them, and thought we surpassed a lot of their other shows,” Hart said. “We were always the little engine that could, and kept chugging along. Without us they wouldn’t have had a Friday night. ‘Reba’ wouldn’t have existed without us.”

Hart said she felt that WB toppers weren’t behind “Sabrina” and that the show “didn’t get a lot of the credit we deserved.”

Still, the Frog had initially started the season by ordering just 13 episodes of “Sabrina,” and only later upped that to 22 after the series exhibited some growth in the fall. “Sabrina” altered its focus this season as the lead character took a job writing for a music magazine.

But “Sabrina” was probably cursed once it moved to Thursdays, where it was asked to jump-start the Frog’s perf on the night. Season to date, “Sabrina” has averaged 3.2 million viewers on Fridays and 2.9 million on Thursdays. Both nights combined, show has pulled a 1.4 rating/5 share among adults 18-34.

Hart said she had tied some loose ends in the season’s final episode, just in case in became the series’ last.

Melissa Joan Hart will next appear in the ABC Family reality series “Tying the Knot,” which follows the actress as she gets married in Italy. The program, which will be scheduled on six consecutive days in July, airs soon after Hart’s actual wedding.

“Sabrina,” which began life as a 1996 Showtime telepic, has been a cottage industry for the Harts. The show even spawned an animated version, which aired on Buena Vista TV’s UPN cartoon block and featured the voice of Emily Hart.

The show jumped nets in 2000 after Viacom Prods. parent Paramount TV Group spurned ABC’s renewal offer, concerned that the Alphabet web was no longer fully behind its “TGIF” franchise. Even though ABC offered a higher license fee, Paramount was attracted to the WB’s promise of a two-season, 44-episode pickup (pending certain ratings guarantees).

ABC dropped “TGIF” after losing “Sabrina,” which bowed to solid numbers on the Frog.

“Sabrina” joins “Dawson’s Creek” as the WB’s other long-running show leaving the airwaves after this season. “Sabrina” is exec produced by Hart, Dan Berendson and David Babcock.

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