Net shuffles sked, boosts Bruckheimer-produced 'Skin'

Fox is giving a big push to fledgling hit “The OC,” shifting “The Bernie Mac Show” to Sundays — and pushing “The Ortegas” off its fall sked.

As part of a major schedule shuffle, net has wrapped production on “The Ortegas,” a half-hour hybrid laffer/gabber, after six episodes and pushed back the show’s premiere from November to midseason at the earliest. It’s the second bump in the road for the Pariah-produced skein, originally developed for NBC’s fall 2003 sked before being snatched up by Fox.

While creative issues have dogged “The Ortegas” for months, Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman said the decision to delay the skein is one piece of a much larger strategy the net is implementing to maximize the momentum Fox attained this summer with the successful launch of “The OC,” the first drama hit of the 2003-04 fall season.

As had been speculated for weeks, Fox has opted against moving “The OC” next month to Thursdays at 9 p.m., where it would have faced brutal competish from “Will & Grace” and “CSI.” Instead, when the show returns for the second half of its frosh season, it will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. — opposite slightly less brutal competish (“The Bachelor”).

“The Bernie Mac Show,” one of the net’s most important assets, will move to one of Fox’s choicest timeslots on Nov. 9: Sundays at 8:30 p.m., following “The Simpsons.”

“Cedric the Entertainer Presents,” which was to return on Wednesdays for its final six episodes, will now end its run at a later date.

And in perhaps the most intriguing move of all, Fox plans to boost its new Jerry Bruckheimer-produced drama “Skin” by offering same-week repeats of the drama Thursdays at 9 p.m., starting Oct. 30. Net used a similar multiplay strategy to boost “The OC” this summer and to help launch “24” during its first season.

Berman said all of the schedule shuffling began with a decision to re-launch “The OC” on Wednesdays rather than Thursdays.

“When a network is on to the way to building a hit, the emphasis and impetus (for other decisions) has to be to continue to build that hit,” she said. “Had we put ‘The OC’ on Thursday, it probably would have done nicely but it wouldn’t break out. By putting the show on Wednesday, we have the opportunity to have a big hit. We had to go for it.”

And while “The OC” still faces tough competish, skein will get a major boost come January when it gets what just may be the perfect lead-in: “American Idol 3.”

As for the “Bernie” move, Berman said the skein was already doing well last spring with an “Idol” lead-in; it will now benefit from a “Simpsons” boost. Likewise, new Sunday laffer “Arrested Development” gets the chance to be the sole focus of Fox’s promo power for the night now that “Ortegas” has been delayed.

As for the “Skin” double-pump, running repeats Thursdays at 9 p.m. as a lead-in to local news during November sweeps probably wasn’t the first scheduling move of choice for Fox’s affils — at least in the short term. But the net has argued that it makes much more sense for the net to build a long-term franchise rather than try to artificially boost ratings during one sweeps frame.

Berman credited her boss, Fox topper Sandy Grushow, for “leading the charge” in terms of the multiplay strategy.

” ‘Skin’ is another show we believe in that has a lot of potential. We need to give it as much exposure as we can,” she said, adding that affils “are along for the ride” with the Thursday strategy.

As for “The Ortegas,” Berman said the net is looking to extend its options on the creative talent on the show so Fox will have the ability to bring the show back following its six-episode run.

Net always had the option to cut back its original 13-seg commitment to six, insiders said. Pariah topper Gavin Polone declined comment on Fox’s decision.

While much of Fox’s new sked won’t bow until after baseball coverage, net’s current Friday sked has struggled since bowing two weeks ago. Berman said the net is “taking a wait-and-see” attitude and that no changes are planned for this week.

There is already speculation, however, that the net could replace laffers “Wanda at Large” and “Luis,” along with “Boston Public,” with a two-hour movie.

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