Network plans ninth edition of 'Big Brother'
With hopes for a quick settlement of the Writers Guild of America strike dimming, the networks are starting to move ahead with programming plans for winter.Plenty of nonscripted fare is in the works: CBS officially greenlit the first-ever in-season edition of CBS summer staple “Big Brother” on Monday, while NBC last week announced premiere dates for several reality skeins. Fox will lean heavily on “American Idol” during the first half of the year, as always, while giving a massive promo push to a new gameshow. But the much-predicted reality tidal wave won’t hit during the first couple months of next year. NBC, for example, is doing what it always does during tough times: It’s adding more hours of “Law & Order” to its sked. And the Eye’s new winter schedule, revealed Monday, relies on a mix of repeats of scripted stalwarts as well as the premieres of two comedies and a drama. Net’s Monday comedy lineup will remain, with repeats of “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men” anchoring at 8 and 9 p.m., respectively. New laffer “The Captain” will replace frosh hit “The Big Bang Theory” at 8:30, while “The New Adventures of Old Christine” will take the place of “Rules of Engagement” at 9:30 p.m. Pre-strike, there had been talk that CBS would open up a new night for comedy, perhaps on Wednesday. Work stoppage made that plan unworkable, with the Eye opting to shore up its current Monday sked. Another scripted addition to the CBS sked is “Jericho,” which returns for its second season Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 10 p.m. after being resurrected from cancellation by fan support. It replaces “Cane,” which will have aired all of its original episodes and has been a sluggish performer in its frosh season. In its midseason announcement, CBS made a point of noting it was sticking with repeats of a slew of scripted shows, including all three editions of “CSI” and crime franchises such as “Criminal Minds,” “Cold Case” and “Shark.” While reality won’t dominate the early months of the year, there will be more of it. Indeed, the biggest strike shift at CBS is the scheduling of “Big Brother” three nights a week. The Eye had been mulling the idea for the past month (Daily Variety, Nov. 7). Ninth installment of the summer staple will make its bow Feb. 12, at 9 p.m. (serving as a lead-in for “Jericho”). Julie Chen-hosted reality skein will also air Wednesday and Sunday nights at 8. While the Tuesday edition of “Brother” displaces scripted series “The Unit,” the Wednesday and Sunday episodes take the place of reality shows — “Kid Nation” and “The Amazing Race” — that will have wrapped their respective runs by February. Winter air pattern for “Brother” is also very similar to the skein’s summer sked, in which episodes run on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights. Eye is still planning a summer edition of “Brother.” Also on the reality tip, CBS will unleash another cycle of “Survivor” on Thursdays starting Feb. 7. And before “Big Brother” starts up, CBS will fill the vacancy left by “Kid Nation” by airing new episodes of quizzer “Power of 10″ Wednesdays at 8. Two extra episodes of Saturday newsmag “48 Hours” will also air on consecutive Tuesdays, Jan. 22 and 29, at 10 p.m. On the bench, but expected to get called up soon: “Million Dollar Password” and “Who Do You Trust.” Less likely to air before late spring or summer is the edgy drama “Swingtown,” which doesn’t have enough episodes in the can to launch prior to a settlement of the strike. Meanwhile, NBC continues to shake up its post-January sked. It’s dumping “Bionic Woman” and “Life” for a double dose of Dick Wolf. “Law & Order,” which was supposed to return on Sundays next month, will instead be back in its old 10 p.m. Wednesday slot, starting Jan. 2. It’ll get a two-hour premiere that night, airing from 9-11 p.m. On Jan. 9, NBC will begin airing repeats of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” Wednesdays at 9. Skein’s firstrun segs have been airing on NBC sister cabler USA Network this season. NBC didn’t offer any word on the fate of “Bionic Woman” or “Life.” “Life” had been renewed for a full season, but NBC hasn’t made any official decisions on “Bionic Woman.” Most industry insiders consider “Bionic” a long shot for a renewal. There have been discussions about revamping the show and relaunching a sort of “Bionic” 2.0, but as ratings for the skein continue to sag — and the strike drags on — that’s become less likely. As for ABC, the net has been mostly silent on its January-February plans, perhaps waiting to see how the strike unfolds. Net aired a promo Sunday night declaring a vague January premiere date for sudser “Cashmere Mafia,” originally set to debut last month. If the strike drags on, however, the show’s premiere could be delayed again. Alphabet’s big unscripted gun is the “Dancing With the Stars” spinoff “Dance Wars.” Over at Fox, meanwhile, the net was the first to announce its early 2008 plans, mixing reality with repeats of strong scripted skeins such as “House” and “Family Guy.” Winter staple “24″ is not on the net’s sked, though it’s possible the show could somehow premiere in the spring if the strike is settled by Christmas.
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