NEW YORK — The WB netlet will launch an ethnic comedy night Thursdays this fall and will shift the teen hit “Dawson’s Creek” to Wednesdays at 8 p.m., just months after the show helped the WB launch “New Tuesday,” its most successful night so far.
Fox has for years aired shows targeted at African-Americans to counterprogram NBC’s Thursday juggernaut. The WB decided to adopt a similar Thursday black sitcom strategy, in part, because the netlet believes that Fox will abandon it in order to challenge NBC head on, possibly by moving the animated hit “King of the Hill.”
Because Fox may still start out the season with ethnic sitcoms Thursday and delay its NBC challenge at least until midseason, the WB decided not to wait until January to add its new night, sources said.
The WB instead will revamp Sunday nights in January with potentially a whole new lineup. The weblet has paid Spelling TV a fee to rerun episodes from the first season of “7th Heaven” at 7 p.m. Sundays from August until December.
In total, the WB picked up three new dramas and a new comedy for fall, as well as a slew of midseason series.
The WB also is hoping to snag Warner Bros.’ “For Your Love,” which aired on NBC midseason but is not expected to get a pickup there.
Challenge to Fox
The move of “Dawson’s Creek” to Wednesday is a bold challenge to Fox’s aging “Beverly Hills 90210” on that night. Because of the show’s adult content, the WB faced criticism last spring when it appeared “Dawson’s Creek” would air at 8 p.m. this season, and it was instead shifted back to 9 p.m. before it launched.
Now that the storyline no longer features a teacher having a sexual relationship with one of her high school students, the WB, which has often stated its intention to program 8 p.m. as a “family hour,” is taking a chance that there will be less reason for concern over the new “Dawson’s” timeslot.
Following “Dawson’s Creek” at 9 p.m. Wednesdays is the new Spelling drama “Charmed,” starring former “Beverly Hills 90210” star Shannen Doherty as a witch. “Charmed” will face a tough timeslot against Fox’s “Party of Five,” which has a similar target audience and reached hit status this season.
Replacing “Dawson’s Creek” in the 9 p.m. Tuesday timeslot is the new Touchstone/Imagine TV drama “Felicity,” starring Keri Russell and described as “Ally McBeal” in college. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” will stay on at 8 p.m. Tuesdays.
Targeting female teens
The WB is hoping the female teen Tuesday lineup will provide a strong promotional platform for Wednesday night, which targets the same audience.
A new Warner Bros. TV drama, “Hyperion,” about two brothers in a small town, will run at 9 p.m. Monday after “7th Heaven.”
The new Thursday lineup is expected to be: “Wayans Brothers” at 8 p.m., followed by “Jamie Foxx” at 8:30 p.m., “Steve Harvey” at 9 p.m. and “For Your Love” at 9:30 p.m.
If the WB can’t get “For Your Love,” it has a backup Thursday plan consisting of “Wayans Brothers” at 8 p.m., “The Parent ‘Hood” at 8:30 p.m., “Jamie Foxx” at 9 p.m. and “Steve Harvey” at 9:30 p.m.
Sunday nights this fall will feature “7th Heaven” repeats at 7 p.m., followed by “Sister, Sister” at 8 p.m., “Smart Guy” at 8:30 p.m., “Unhappily Ever After” at 9 p.m. and at 9:30 p.m. Castle Rock TV’s new sitcom “The Army Show,” which is about a misfit Army gang in the style of “Sgt. Bilko.”
The WB believes “7th Heaven” repeats have a built-in audience, and they were less expensive to secure than ordering a new series. While there’s always concern that double-runs will dilute a hit show, WB execs think a few months of double-runs won’t do much harm.
The Sunday lineup is expected to change in January, and the new series under consideration there are: Touchstone TV’s comedy “Zoe Bean”; Warner Bros. TV’s “You’re on With Kate” starring Park Overall; the animated series “Baby Blues”; and Universal’s “Movie Stars” comedy.
The WB is very high on “Zoe Bean,” but felt it might get lost in a fall launch. The netlet has had a tough time launching comedies and has had good luck with shows starting at midseason.
Spelling TV’s “Rescue 77” also was ordered as a backup for the three new dramas.
Shows that won’t be returning to the WB’s lineup include Brillstein-Grey’s “Alright Already,” which lasted a full season despite low ratings, the Shelley Long starrer “Kelly, Kelly,” “You’re the One,” “The Tom Show,” “Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher” and “Three.”