Networks plot post-strike schedules

As showrunners flip on the lights and scribes once again occupy long-abandoned writers’ rooms, network and studio execs are still figuring out what lives, what dies — and when it all comes back.

ABC got the ball rolling Monday, renewing nine series for fall in a post-strike pickup binge.

The renewals were essentially no-brainers, encompassing some of the Alphabet web’s top-rated scripted performers. Frosh series scoring orders include “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Private Practice,” “Pushing Daisies” and “Samantha Who?” All four have received 13-episode pickups, as is standard practice among frosh skeins.

ABC staples earning another year include “Brothers & Sisters,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lost” and “Ugly Betty.” Most of those received complete 22-episode orders (with some exceptions — “Lost,” for example, was originally slated to produce 16 episodes next year but may produce a few more if a full 16 aren’t shot this year).

Several other networks are planning announcements in the next few days spelling out their spring and fall plans.

Network strategists have already worked out templates on how to handle remaining back-nine orders on returning shows: Some have been truncated, some scratched altogether — and a few skeins will still be asked to deliver that entire full-season order.

But now, of course, the nets will finally be able to sit down with showrunners and writers to see what’s doable in the few remaining months of the season.ABC

The early renewal of key primetime series has now given ABC and the studios behind its shows ample leeway in planning schedules for the next several months.

That’s helpful because each show has different needs and capabilities. Some will still be able to produce a good chunk of their back-nine orders this year, allowing ABC to bring them back in the spring. (“Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty” are all expected to reappear with several episodes before the season’s out.)

Others may produce much of that back order but still wait until September before making a grand re-entrance. That’s the case with Wednesday frosh entries “Pushing Daisies” and “Private Practice,” as ABC — which has been holding its own on the night anyway vs. “American Idol” competish — opts to give those still-new shows a proper relaunch.

As for “Lost,” exec producer Carlton Cuse said he and fellow showrunner Damon Lindelof would meet with ABC brass today to hammer out the plan for the rest of the season. They won’t be able to finish the remaining eight segs of the show’s planned 16-episode season — five is a more likely number — but they will be able to craft a completed storyline for the remainder of this season, Cuse said.

And whatever segs are not produced this season will be picked up down the road in the show’s remaining two seasons, Cuse said.

“We’re going to try to make as many as we can and do a good job of finishing out this season,” he said. “We’ll have to compress some of the storytelling we planned for this season, and that may not be a bad thing. Damon and I feel like we know how we can finish it off and still make it a really, really great story.”

Over at David E. Kelley Prods., the shingle is prepping the return of “Boston Legal.” A spokeswoman said the show could be back in front of cameras as soon as next Wednesday — most likely making it the first drama to resume shooting post-strike. (Scribe Kelley can churn out scripts so swiftly that such a breakneck return to production isn’t a surprise.)

“Boston Legal” had already shot 14 segs of its 22-episode order. Given the show’s quick return, Kelley’s production company believes it can still fulfill that commitment before the end of the season.


Dramas moving forward include all three editions of the “CSI” franchise, “NCIS,” “Without a Trace,” “Cold Case,” “Numbers,” “Criminal Minds,” “Ghost Whisperer” and “Moonlight.”

Laffers given a greenlight are “Two and a Half Men,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

Net is hoping to crank out eight segs of its comedies and six or seven segs of each of its dramas. Newcomer “Moonlight” will likely produce fewer segs.

Eye insiders are hoping to begin rolling out new episodes of the comedies by mid-March, while the hope is to have dramas begin popping up the first week in April.

While CBS isn’t expected to finalize decisions until Wednesday at the earliest, a couple of shows are likely to stay out of production for now.

So far, CBS hasn’t asked for more episodes of dramas “Shark” or “The Unit.” Both shows are on the bubble for a return next fall.

CBS has told the producers of newcomer “Cane,” meanwhile, that no more episodes will be produced this season. Skein remains a contender for renewal next season, however.

Also up in the air: midseason drama “Swingtown,” which had been set to bow in the spring. CBS has produced only a couple of episodes of the show and is now undecided as to whether it will move forward with the project, which offers a vast departure from the Eye’s usual crimetime fare.

CBS is also waiting to see more numbers for “The New Adventures of Old Christine” before deciding whether to expand its current midseason run. There’s also no word yet on the future of “Rules of Engagement,” which has done well when it aired on the net.

It’s possible CBS will air originals of a few of its shows as late as June, but so far, no scheduling decisions have been locked in.


Fox plans to extend the regular TV season in order to take advantage of late-delivered episodes from shows including “House.” Originals of certain shows could continue airing into June, web insiders said, or else in August. Such a scenario would make good on long-promised attempts at running original scripted fare during the vacation months.

As a result, in most cases, the net is still looking to honor full back-nine orders — depending on the feasibility of such a task.

Serialized series won’t return until next season, however; the net felt that producers — not to mention viewers — may have trouble getting back into those shows’ storylines at this late date. (Certain skeins, like “Prison Break,” already wrapped with a de facto season closer anyway.)

Then there’s “24.” Fox has decided not to try forcing a full season of the Kiefer Sutherland drama at this late date; show won’t return until January.

As for its large crop of midseason shows, Fox’s needs are already filled, which means no additional episodes of shows like “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” or “Canterbury’s Law” will be shot.


NBC is expected to bring back most of its Thursday laffers, including “My Name Is Earl,” “The Office” and “30 Rock.” It’s not yet clear how many episodes of “Scrubs” will be produced. NBC has said the skein is in its final season; network and producer ABC Studios are negotiating just how many segs creator Bill Lawrence will get to wrap up his show.

The Peacock is contractually obligated to produce more “ER” segs this season, and it seems likely at least four to six of those will air starting in April. The net is also said to be in talks with Warner Bros. TV about a reduction in “ER’s” license fee that would allow the show to return for another season in the fall.

“Law & Order: SVU” should also resume production on new episodes, while “Medium” is gearing up to come back to finish out its season.

NBC remains high on newcomer “Chuck,” but the odds are that the show won’t return until late summer (after the Olympics) or early fall. “Heroes,” with its elaborate serialized storyline, is also expected to take the summer to regroup.

It helps that ABC and NBC both have filled gaps in their skeds with successful reality skeins. The Peacock is doing well with “The Biggest Loser” and “Deal or No Deal,” while the Alphabet’s Wednesday reality skeins have scored decent ratings at a fraction of the cost of scripted fare.

Shows not expected to resume production include “Bionic Woman” and “Journeyman”; both are currently considered canceled. NBC insiders remain high on “Life,” though it likely won’t be back before the summer or fall.

Equally murky are the futures of “Friday Night Lights” and “Las Vegas.” Latter won’t produce more episodes this season but is still on the bubble for renewal. NBC execs are looking for a way to bring back “FNL.”

The future of Peacock reality hit “The Biggest Loser” is clearer. Net on Monday greenlit production on a sixth season of the show, which will likely air in the fall. “Loser” is from Reveille LLC, 25/7 Prods. and 3 Ball Prods.


CW execs are looking to quickly gear up production on dramas “Smallville,” “Gossip Girl,” “One Tree Hill,” “Reaper” and “Supernatural.” Net wants at least five or six segs of each.

In the case of “Gossip Girl,” CW may expand its order and relaunch the show in the summer. Serials from “Melrose Place” to “The OC” have thrived in the warm-weather months.

On the comedy front, CW is looking to crank out eight or nine more episodes of “The Game.”

Newcomer “Aliens in America,” which had completed 18 episodes before the strike, won’t produce new episodes but remains in the hunt for a fall return. “Everybody Hates Chris” had wrapped production of a 22-episode season before the strike kicked in.

Another laffer that won’t resume production is “Girlfriends.” Even before the strike, there had been talk that this would be the show’s last season; now CW has made it official.

Because the show won’t be back, net isn’t finishing production on a full 22-episode season. However, execs are talking to producers about a way to give the show a proper sendoff, perhaps via a clip show.

As for the confirmed dead, industry insiders said frosh drama “Life Is Wild” won’t resume production and won’t be back for a second season.

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