Kelley, Fox searching for new female lead

“Boston Public” has been suspended — but Fox insists the show hasn’t yet been permanently expelled from its lineup.

Production on the David E. Kelley Prods./20th Century Fox TV skein will cease after the show’s 15th episode wraps shooting this week. There had been talk of shooting more episodes this season, but that was dependent on exec producer David E. Kelley and Fox finding the right female thesp to join the show’s cast in a new leading role.

Fox last spring renewed “Boston Public” for the 2003-04 season. It turns out, however, the net only ordered 13 episodes of the show; it later picked up two more segs.

“Boston Public” won’t air during the February sweeps, and last week, the net announced the show was on hiatus, with new drama “Wonderfalls” taking its place.

The end of production combined with no imminent date for the show’s return to the primetime sked would seem to suggest Fox has cancelled “Boston Public.” A network spokesman, however, said that was not the case.

“We have no problems canceling shows, as is evident by the shows we have canceled,” he said, referring to “Skin,” “Wanda at Large,” “Luis” and “A Minute with Stan Hooper.”

Should Fox finally decide to dismiss “Public,” there’s talk the net might allow Kelley to write a closing chapter to the series in the form of a 16th episode.

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