Network says fall TV season to bow in July

The CW is looking to launch its 2009 fall sked as soon as next July.

Green net entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff told reporters Saturday that the CW is accelerating its development cycle in order to shoot several pilots this fall. Net — which already is launching earlier than its rivals this year, beginning its season Sept. 1 — could then bow even earlier next summer.

“We feel like we need to look at this in a different way,” Ostroff said. “The idea is to get out of the fray and be able to bring viewers in when there’s not as much competition.”

Networks have occasionally launched individual series a month or two before the traditional September launch, but the CW’s plan will mark the first time a broadcaster will have bowed its entire sked that early.

Ostroff said the CW is still hammering out details, including whether the launch would take place in July or August. The early start could mean that CW’s 2009-10 season would end in April, rather than May. It might also require more midseason entries than usual to fill scheduling gaps.

Strategy would solve the CW’s summer conundrum: Netlet has been virtually dark during the summer months, making it tougher to bring new fare in the fall. The CW might have launched earlier this year, Ostroff said, but it didn’t want to compete against the Olympics.

Ostroff discussed the strategy Saturday during the Green web’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour. The exec also downplayed concerns that the net may be on shaky footing.

Ostroff said there’s no deadline looming over the net or a timetable as to when it should exhibit growth.

“We feel we’ve made a lot of progress,” she said. “To have a show like ‘Gossip Girl’ in our second year is great for us … I think we all feel we’re on our way.”

Ostroff expressed frustration over “Gossip Girl’s” poor ratings perf, arguing that Nielsen is dramatically undercounting the drama’s audience.

“It’s one of the big mysteries of the TV universe,” she said. “We have a show everybody’s talking about. … People are viewing content in many different ways. We have to figure out a way all of those different viewing habits are counted. No viewer should be left behind.”

Also Saturday, CW confirmed earlier reports that Shannen Doherty would make an appearance on the new “90210.” Doherty, who left the original “Beverly Hills 90210” in 1994, will reprise her role as Brenda Walsh.

The character, last seen fleeing the zip code for London to study acting, will return to her alma mater to help direct the school’s musical production.

Doherty joins previously announced original “90210” thesps Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling and Joe E. Tata, all of whom will appear in recurring guest spots.

New show will bow on Tuesday, Sept. 2 — the netlet purposely chose the date because of the “9/02” connotations (unfortunately, the year isn’t 2010, or the date would have given the CW a perfect 9/02/10 launch).

“90210” will launch that night with a two-hour premiere. The next week, Sept. 9, the show will settle alongside fellow frosh “Privileged,” which bows that night.

CW will launch its season Monday, Sept. 1, with the returns of “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill.”

On Wednesdays, “America’s Next Top Model” is back with a two-hour bow on Sept. 3; reality vet will be paired with “90210” repeats the following several weeks until Oct. 29, when frosh reality entry “Stylista” bows.

The CW’s Thursday night “Smallville”/“Supernatural” block is back Sept. 18, while Friday’s lineup (comedies and “Top Model” repeats) launches Oct. 3.

Net said it will announce dates for new horror-themed reality entry “13 — Fear Is Real” and midseason returnee “Reaper” at a future date.

Meanwhile, MRC announced that the bulk of its Sunday-night block will launch on Sept. 21 — opposite the Emmy Awards and a major NBC “Sunday Night Football” matchup.

Reality skein “In Harm’s Way” will temporarily air at 7, followed by the previously announced 8 p.m. berth for “Valentine” and 9 home for “Easy Money.”

On Nov. 2, “In Harm’s Way” will move down to the 6:30-7:30 p.m. slot, making way for new laffer “Surviving Suburbia” at 7:30.

MRC hasn’t yet determined its plans for the 5-6:30 p.m. time periods. (MRC inherited the CW’s “Easy View” 5-7 block as part of its deal to program the netlet’s Sunday lineup.)

Thesps announced for MRC fare include Bob Saget, who will star in “Surviving Suburbia.”

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