Web debuting four new skeins in June and July

ABC will look to capitalize its regular season Nielsen momentum this summer with one of the net’s most ambitious warm-weather slates in years.

Alphabet will debut no less than four new alternative skeins in June and July — including the newly announced “Welcome to the Neighborhood” — and bring back “Wife Swap” with up to 10 original episodes.

Net is also planning a splashy launch for its big-budget, limited-run Roman empire skein “Empire,” which will unfold on Tuesday nights over five weeks.

In addition, frosh hits “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” will get new summer timeslots, while ABC will turn Saturday’s “Wonderful World of Disney” franchise into a home for some of Disney’s biggest theatricals, including the network premiere of “Bambi.”

ABC exec veep Jeff Bader said the success of the net’s regular season series allowed some shows that had been available for spring to air in the summer instead.

“We definitely have some momentum, and we want to keep it going through the summer right up to the start of next season,” he said.

Early start

That means skeins will start rolling out just a few weeks after the 2004-05 season wraps May 25 and the NBA playoffs get under way.

Bader said ABC will use the NBA to help hype “Empire,” which he believes could have strong male appeal. Limited skein will have a two-hour premiere on Tuesday, June 28, from 9-11 p.m., with the remaining four episodes running on consecutive Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

“This is actually less risky” than premiering the show in season, Bader added.

Indeed, Neil Meron, one of “Empire’s” exec producers (along with partner Craig Zadan), said he’s happy the long-in-the-works project will get a chance to bow away from the regular season crush.

“After all the work on this, we want to get noticed, and this is the best way for it to get the recognition we all think it deserves,” he said, noting the blockbuster feel of the skein fits in well with what auds expect from summertime entertainment.

Tony Jonas, another exec producer on “Empire,” called the skein “probably the most expensive show on network television, and it all shows up onscreen.”

Scheduling means “Empire” will get on the air two months before HBO premieres its even more expensive Roman empire drama in September.

As for the rest of ABC’s summer sked:

  • “Dancing With Stars,” the U.S. adaptation of “Strictly Come Dancing,” will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. starting June 1. Skein is a sort of mash-up of “American Idol” and “Dance Fever” (Daily Variety, Jan. 17).

  • Summer season of “Wonderful World of Disney” begins June 4 with the bow of “Bambi.” To help hype the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, net plans to air a slew of modern Disney hits, with celeb-hosted interstitials making note of the park’s historical highlights.

  • “The Scholar” — a sort of “Who Wants to Go to College” for needy students from the superstar production team of Steve Martin, Joan Stein, Jon Murray, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner — gets the 8 p.m. Monday slot. It premieres June 6.

  • In July, ABC will bow the previously hush-hush unscripted reality skein “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” on which a community decides which of seven families wins a brand new home in their neighborhood. MGM Television, New Screen Concepts and the Jay and Tony Show produced the skein, which doesn’t yet have a timeslot.

  • The previously announced “Brat Camp,” in which unruly teens are forced to shape up when they’re shipped out to a wilderness camp in Oregon (Daily Variety, Jan. 20), will also bow in July.

It’s possible ABC will sked either “Brat Camp” or “Welcome to the Neighborhood” Sundays at 9 p.m., right after repeats of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Timeslot shuffle

The 9 p.m. slot will become vacant in late June or early July once ABC moves “Desperate Housewives” to a temporary 10 p.m. timeslot on Sundays. “Lost” will also get a later timeslot, Wednesdays at 10 p.m., starting June 1.

Bader said the net believes airing the shows out of their regular time period will expose them to new viewers.

ABC hasn’t yet decided when or whether repeats of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Boston Legal,” both of which have aired Sundays at 10, will air.

  • Net is also giving “Supernanny” an earlier timeslot in the summer, shifting it to Wednesdays at 8 as a lead-in to “Dancing With the Stars.” In addition, “Wife Swap” is expected to get an 8 p.m. timeslot in July. There it could serve as a lead-in to a new reality show.

  • ABC plans a Monday movie franchise in June and July, starting June 6 with the network bow of “The Ring.” Some features are also expected to air on Saturdays.

As for ABC’s other summer plans, four original episodes of “Complete Savages” will air on Fridays this June, while extra original episodes of “Eyes” may be available as well.

Net also has its annual “Celebration at Ford’s Theater” spec planned for July and is promising more original alternative skeins for August.

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