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NBC’s sked set; ‘Sports’ plays at HBO

ABC ponders four or five hours of 'Millionaire'

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NEW YORK — They’re ruffling a few feathers at the Peacock next fall, adding three comedies, four dramas and a Saturday movie.

Meanwhile, ABC and the WB are also inching closer to locking in 2000-01 skeds, with both webs putting the final touches on series orders for the fall.

Also, with “Sports Night” not appearing on any of the early ABC schedules floating around town, the critically acclaimed Imagine/Touchstone skein is expected to end up on HBO. Sources suggest a deal may already be in place for the feevee cabler to pick up 13 segs of a revamped “Sports Night.”

As for the Peacock, its most aggressive action comes on Tuesday night, where the net will try to counter ABC’s strong “Millionaire”-fueled night by launching a completely revamped two-hour comedy block led by a new Castle Rock/Warner Bros. comedy from ex-“Seinfeld” sidekick Michael Richards at 8 p.m. and the return of vet laffer “Frasier” to the 9 p.m. slot (Daily Variety, May 12.)

‘Tucker’ primed

Family-themed half-hour “Tucker,” from NBC Studios and Regency TV, is set for 8:30 p.m. while the much buzzed-about David Alan Grier comedy “DAG,” from NBC Studios, will air at 9:30. “Dateline” remains at 10.

NBC will also seek to put some sizzle back in its still-mighty Thursday sked, revamping three-fourths of the 8-10 p.m. comedy block.

With “Frasier” off to Tuesdays, sophomore sensation “Will & Grace” picks up the slack at 9 p.m., the slot that’s been home to Peacock powerhouses such as “Seinfeld,” “Frasier” and “Cheers.” The oft-moved “Just Shoot Me” packs its bags again and lands Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.

‘Friends’ leads

Night will still lead off with “Friends,” followed at 8:30 p.m. by the ATG-produced Steven Weber comedy formerly known as “Cursed.”

Overall, NBC is changing at least one hour of its sked on every night but Friday, which remains untouched by Peacock programmers. Net is also decreasing its reliance on non-scripted fare, axing gamer “Twenty-One” and cutting back the number of weekly editions of “Dateline NBC” to three per week.

Three-hour movie

NBC is also establishing a three-hour Saturday movie, the first time since 1981 the net has kicked off a season with a Saturday movie franchise. Peacock may air sitcom repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday in weeks where it doesn’t have a three-hour movie available.

On Mondays, NBC will kick off the week at 8 p.m. with “Daddio,” the midseason family laffer that found success on Thursdays this spring. It’ll be followed by “3rd Rock from the Sun” at 8:30; the new Dick Wolf/Studios USA-produced drama “Deadline” at 9 p.m.; and the second season of “Third Watch.”

As for Wednesdays, NBC is opting for an all-drama sked, starting the night with Aaron Spelling’s latest sudser “Titans,” which Spelling co-produces with NBC Studios. “The West Wing” and “Law & Order” remain at 9 and 10 p.m.

Fridays remain the same, with “Providence” into “Dateline” into “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

Sundays kick off with “Dateline” at 7 p.m.; the new comedy-drama “Ed,” from Worldwide Pants/Viacom/NBC Studios, at 8 p.m.; and a movie at 9.

NBC’s midseason orders include “News from the Edge” (Greenblatt-Janollari/NBC Studios); “These Women” (NBC Studios); “Go Fish” (Touchstone); “Semper Fi” (DreamWorks/NBC Studios) and the untitled John Markus project starring Kristen Chenoweth (Paramount).

As for ABC, the network is still hashing out how many episodes of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” might land on the schedule.

Much ‘Millionaire’

The Alphabet web has been rumored to be pondering as many as five and a half hours of “Millionaire” throughout the week — although most sources expect closer to four or four and a half hours.

One schedule making the rounds suggests that ABC might consider adding a half-hour “Millionaire” Wednesdays at 8. The network may also add an hour-long “Millionaire” Fridays at 9.

ABC has picked up all five of its comedy pilots, although not all for fall: “Lost and Found,” the Geena Davis sitcom from Touchstone, a shoo-in for the post-“Dharma & Greg” slot on Tuesdays; “Wife and Kids,” the Damon Wayans family comedy from Touchstone; the Denis Leary project from Touchstone and DreamWorks; “Madigan Men,” from ATG and Touchstone; and “People Who Fear People,” the buddy comedy from Paramount.

Among dramas, the Alphabet web has “Gideon’s Crossing,” the medical project from Touchstone. Skein is expected to occupy the Tuesday 10 p.m. slot until “NYPD Blue” returns midseason. Network could also pick up Imagine’s “The Beast,” possibly for midseason.

‘Once’ on Wednesday

Also at ABC, the network appears close to replacing a newsmagazine with a drama in the Wednesday 10 p.m. slot for the first time in years. “Once and Again” is expected to inherit the slot occupied by “20/20.”

As it loses its Wednesday night slot, “20/20” will now probably benefit from a “Millionaire” lead-in both on Thursday (with Diane Sawyer) and Friday (Barbara Walters).

Meanwhile, the WB is inching closer to sealing deals to bring back dramas “Roswell,” “Felicity” and “Jack and Jill.”

Frog net is expected to pick up 13 episodes each of the skeins, all of which weren’t necessarily shoo-ins to return. In an interesting twist, the network is considering scheduling both “Felicity” and “Jack and Jill” in the same time slot: Wednesdays at 9 following “Dawson’s Creek.”

In a potential move that would eliminate in-season reruns of both dramas — neither of which perform well in repeats — the WB may consider launching the season with one of the two shows for 11 weeks, then airing the second show for 11 weeks; the final 11 weeks would likely be filled by the best-performing of the two.

As it stands, the WB’s fall pickups appear to include the comedies “Gross Pointe,” the Darren Star project from ATG; “Nikki,” the Nikki Cox sitcom from Warner Bros.; and “Hype,” the sketch comedy from Warner Bros.

Also, the weblet is expected to add Fox castoff “The PJs” to its mix of urban comedies, which include the return of “For Your Love,” “Steve Harvey” and “Jamie Foxx.”

On the drama side, the WB will pick up “Gilmore Girls,” from WBTV. The studio’s “Dead Last” is a shoo-in for midseason.

Much of the WB’s lineup is contingent on studio negotiations. “Popular’s” return, for example, is said to be tied to the renewal of “Felicity.”

As the schedule appears, Warner Bros. Television will now own a stake in seven of the WB’s shows — “For Your Love,” “Jamie Foxx,” “Jack and Jill,” “The PJs” (now a co-production between Imagine and WBTV), “Gilmore Girls,” “Hype” and “Nikki.”

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