ABC, UPN, WB on the laugh track

Alphabet's comedy pilots sound promising

Three down, three to go.

Last week, we took a look at what could end up on the fall skeds of the top-rated nets, NBC, Fox and CBS. Here now is what programmers at ABC and the netlets have to do:


After stopping the bleeding this season thanks mostly to sports and reality programs, net must make room for more sitcoms and dramas, the lifeblood of any network. (It has no scripted series among the season’s top 30 shows in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen.)

Fortunately, ABC’s comedy pilots sound like the best batch of any net, including Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford in “Hope and Faith,” Tim Allen narrating “These Guys,” Tom Everett Scott and A.J. Langer as friends who are “Platonically Incorrect” and family laffer “Hench at Home,” produced by Michael J. Fox.

If packaged properly with its young comedy successes (“According to Jim,” “My Wife and Kids,” “8 Simple Rules”), ABC could become the comedy leader within a couple of years.

Net should make a bold move and target a block of family comedies for Thursday opposite NBC’s strong but fading urbane laffers. It should also keep a two-hour block on Tuesday and a femme-focused pair (perhaps “Hope and Faith” and “Less Than Perfect”) on Wednesday leading into “The Bachelor.”

On the drama side, where ABC needs major help, holes include something on Mondays at 8 that can mesh well with “Monday Night Football” and stay there in January (perhaps the new “Street Lawyer”), something with female appeal following “The Bachelor” (such as “111 Gramercy Park”) and something for Sunday at 9 (perhaps the family hour “Better Days”), which would push the dark “Alias” to a more appropriate 10 o’clock timeslot somewhere on the sked.

As for “The Practice,” net could use one more year of it, even in its weakened state, with a return to Sunday at 10 not a bad idea.

The WB

It’ll be tough to replace “Dawson’s Creek,” which retires this month despite still-strong ratings, but the Frog has shown the ability to consistently tap into the zit-geist with dramas.

While nothing on this year’s drama pilot list looks to be a fastball down the middle, “Tarzan and Jane” and the action-oriented “Fearless,” starring Rachael Leigh Cook, have potential. And don’t count out the net’s new take on “MacGyver.”

Like ABC, the Frog has some promising comedy candidates, including “Sweet Potato Queens” (a perfect skedmate for “Reba”), “All About the Andersons” (based on the life of comedian Anthony Anderson) and its untitled Adam Resnick project about a 19-year-old mayor of a small town.

Now with three building blocks (“Reba,” “Grounded for Life” and “Jamie Kennedy Experiment”), the WB may look to establish a laffer presence on Wednesday.


Net, down 15% year-to-year, had hoped Tuesday hip-hop hour “Platinum” would provide it with a drama anchor, but it has struggled. Don’t discount its return, though, perhaps with African-American-led comedies as a lead-in.

Net might shift one of its Monday comedies to Tuesday and pair it with a new laffer such as “All of Us” (starring Duane Martin and produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett).

“Enterprise,” despite a sharp ratings falloff this season, will likely return Wednesdays, paired with a male-appeal drama like “The Edge,” about undercover FBI and DEA agents.

The new version of “Twilight Zone,” which hasn’t done too badly on a crowded Wednesday night, might work well on Friday, where the net has been netting a weak 0.8/3 in adults 18-34 with movies.

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