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ABC sked slates ‘Soul,’return of ‘Wonderful’

ABC unveiled its development slate for the 1997-98 season to media buyers Tuesday, as well as scheduled its midseason replacement series “Soul Man,” starring Dan Aykroyd, and detailed its plans to return “The Wonderful World of Disney” franchise to the network this fall.

“Soul Man” is from “Home Improvement” producers Wind Dancer Prods. and will make its network debut on Tuesday, April 15, in the 8:30 p.m. slot. That slot is currently being filled by “Ellen,” which will move back to its Wednesday 9:30 p.m. slot on April 30, the start of May sweeps. Although “Soul Man” is moving forward as scheduled, ABC continues to battle Wind Dancer over the renewal of the hit “Home Improvement.”

Meanwhile, the midseason replacement “Arsenio” will finish its run in “Ellen’s” 9:30 Wednesday slot on April 23. At that point, ABC will have aired eight of the 13 episodes of the DreamWorks Television comedy and will either air the remaining five episodes in the early summer or as a jump start to the fall season should the show make it into season two.

On the Disney front, ABC said it will air 35 films under “The Wonderful World of Disney” banner next season on Sundays in the 7-9 p.m. slot starting Sept. 21.

Of the 35 films, several will be theatrical releases, including Disney’s “Pocahontas” and “The Santa Clause” as well as Universal’s “Babe” and “Casper.” Original telefilms include “Oliver Twist,” starring Richard Dreyfuss and Elijah Wood; “Toothless,” starring Kirstie Alley; “From Garbage to the Gridiron,” starring Tony Danza; and “Gold Rush,” starring Alyssa Milano.

As he did on a previous “Wonderful World of Disney” incarnation, Disney chairman Michael Eisner will introduce each week’s program.

On the development front, ABC detailed its comedy and drama pilots for media buyers who are in town meeting with all the webs except CBS, which had a presentation in New York last week.

ABC’s comedies include Brillstein-Grey’s “Comfort, Texas” starring Brian Benben (“Dream On”), about a city dweller who inherits a Texas ranch; a Chris Elliott project from Disney; “Dharma and Greg” starring Jenna Elfman (“Townies”) from 20th Century Fox Television; and about a dozen other comedies.

On the drama front, ABC has 12 projects currently in the works, including two based on theatricals (“TimeCop” and “The Player”) and “Cracker,” based on the British series of the same name.

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